Mr. Luby's Fear Of Heaven by John Mortimer

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Mr. Luby's Fear of Heaven by John Mortimer. BBC Radio 4, 31 December 2008
First performed in 1976, Mortimer's play focused on the nature/ nurture conflict. Lewis Luby (Jeremy Irons), a visiting lecturer from England on tour in Italy, falls down from a balcony and believes himself to be dead as a result. While waiting to go to heaven he encounters Tommy Fletcher (Stephen Critchlow), an expat who has spent his life running a café/bar for other expats in Italy, while pursuing what can most politely be described as a colourful sex life. At first Luby considers himself Fletcher's social superior - after all, he has spent his life writing, lecturing and publishing about Lord Byron, and has acquired enough of a reputation to be included on the British Council's list of potential visiting scholars (the fact that such a list no longer exists in these money-conscious times was conveniently overlooked). As the action unfolds, however, Luby comes to the painful realisation that his superiority to Fletcher is only skin-deep. Apart from writing, Luby has never really done anything with his life; on the contrary, he remains very much at his wife Sophie's (Marcia Fitzalan's) beck and call. Fletcher, on the other hand, has pursued a Byronic existence - although ignorant of books and literature, he has remained true to his instincts and enjoyed life to the full. The play ends with Luby discovering that he is not dead after all, and resolving to follow Fletcher's example by changing his lifestyle.
Jeremy Irons was suitable cast as the patrician Luby; his nasal, quasi-aristocratic tones suggesting someone at home with public speaking, who hitherto had spent little time on self-analysis. As he gradually discovered the shortcomings of his existence, his tone changed - a note of doubt crept in, which changed to one of regret as he admitted his sexual inadequacies to Fletcher. He tried to assume a dominant tone with his wife, but could not escape her influence. His final line - "I'm alive, harmlessly alive!" - summed up his existence - despite his scholarly accomplishments he was "harmless," in other words, insignificant. The play was directed by John Mortimer's son Jeremy Mortimer.