The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

Contact Us

Dangerous Visions on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 Extra, 22 June 2013
In this dystopian world, recreated as part of Radio 4's Dangerous Visions series, Britain has become subject to a deadly virus MDS (Maternal Death Syndrome) affecting pregnant women in particular.  Jessie Lamb (Holliday Grainger) takes it upon herself to save humanity, and set down her experiences in diary form. 
Nadia Molinari's production unfolds in a continuous present with Jessie acting as storyteller linking a series of disparate scenes.  This was a clever strategy, as it transformed Rogers' story (adapted from her own novel) into a coming-of-age drama in which Jessie recalled how she was transformed from a gawky teenager into a women with a social conscience.  She didn't expect this to happen; but the transformation was necessary in a context where all women were perceived as social risks, while sex, marriage and procreation were frowned upon (they were the principal means by which MDS was spread).
Rogers' dystopian world was a dog-eat-dog world, in which violent conflict was followed by equally violent repression,  No one seemed to know how to deal with the virus, which only served to spread the sense of panic still further.  What Jessie learned, perhaps more than anything else, was how to negotiate that world; she might encounter violence, cruelty, even rape, but she knew how to deal with them.
Holliday Granger gave a stand-out performance in what was in truth a very difficult role.  The Testament of Jessie Lamb was certainly uncomfortable listening, but compelling nonetheless.