BBC Radio 4, 10 July 2013
It's near the end of World War
II, and James Lees-Milne (Tobias Menzies) is trying his best on behalf of the National Trust to assess whether Faringdon
House, the seat of Lord Berners (Christopher Godwin) should be put under the organization's care.
Berners leads an unconventional
yet apparently idealistic lifestyle, sharing his house with Robert Haber-Percy (Michael Shelford) and his wife Jennifer (Philippa
Stanton), and indulging in such eccentric practices as dyeing his doves and producing different coloured mayonnaise.
Lees-Milne admits what Berners is doing, and wonders whether he himself should not try and adopt similar practices.
However this particular ideal is only skin-deep. As Marion Nancarrow's production unfolded,
we discovered just how isolated a person Berners actually was; for all his eccentricities, he could seldom communicate his
feelings to anyone. It seemed increasingly evident that the eccentricities were a front, a protection against anything
that might harm Berners' sense of self-esteem. Lees-Milne came to realize this, which made him more than ever convinced
that the Trust should assume responsibility for the property, if only to secure a future for Robert Heber-Percy, once Berners
had passed away.
Initially it seemed as if What
England Owes was a celebration of British quirkiness, written in the kind of light-hearted style characteristic of Jerome
K. Jerome and P. G. Wodehouse. As the action unfolded, however, it was clear that there were deeper truths lurking beneath
the jocose fašade, about the importance of friendship and staying together through thick and thin.