BBC Radio 4, 25 July 2013
Set in 1969, Christopher William
Hill's piece began with Ernest Shepard (Oliver Ford Davies) and his wife Norah (Kate Fahy) contacting the Victoria and Albert
Museum about giving some of his drawings to the museum for posterity, so that they would not be sold to the United States.
After some initial reluctance, the museum agreed; later on they decided to mount an exhibition devoted to his work.
Things did not quite turn out
as planned, once an American institution had contacted the museum with the (apparently) good news that they were willing to
send over the original toys that inspired A. A. Milne to write his classic text Winnie the Pooh (for which Shepard
provided the illustrations). The museum readily agreed, and by doing so shifted the focus away from Shepard on to the
toys; as in the past, the illustrator was doomed to be a footnote in the canon of children's literary history.
But Peter Kavanagh's production
contained a fundamental irony; the toys sent from the United States were not the originals at all. Shepard
was at pains to inform us that they had been destroyed long ago. However he chose not to tell anyone, as he revealed
to Christopher Milne (Simon Treves) - the original Christopher Robin in Milne's book - that the illustrations were
not based on Milne at all, but on Shepard's late son, who had been killed in the Second World War. This fundamental
truth had been kept hidden from public view: everyone believed that the prototype for Shepard's Christopher had been
Hush! Hush! Whisper Who Dares!
was a play about illusions, as Milne revealed that he and his father had seldom been close. Milne was not like the book's
Christopher Robin at all - in fact, he had endured a difficult childhood. Yet he, like Shepard, realized that perhaps
it was better for everyone if the illusion was sustained; after all, Winnie the Pooh continued to be a best-seller
With two haunting central performances from Ford Davies and Treves in the title role, this was a poignant piece,
showing who two men's lives had been destroyed by the book.