Waves Breaking on a Shore by Michael Eaton and Neil Brand

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BBC Radio 4, 27-28 May 2010
Set in 1902, this ambitious period drama concerned two vaudevillians Manny and Danny Cohen (Simon Schatzberger and Andrew Scott) - one Irish, the other Jewish - who made a living performing in London's East End. Very popular with local audiencs, they nonetheless have their hearts set on bigger things, so when Nettie Truman, a local girl (Hayley Atwell) comes up with the idea of transferring their act to film on the new Edison phonograph, they jump at the chance. However things do not turn out well for them; and they end up making their own film which is fortunate enough to be put on public performance.
However the action takes place against a background of casual racism, directed particularly against the Jews but also encompassing the Irish as well. Uncle Manny (Jonathan Tafler) is a great supporter of the duo's activities, but he ends up being kicked to death by members of the British Brotherhood League, an extremist group which accuses the Jews of taking jobs which should be given to 'natural' (i.e. white) Britons. The brothers agree to have their film narrated by Nettie's father, Colonel Truman (Sean Chapman), a military veteran; instead of reading the prepared script, however, the Colonel issues a barrage of racist insults, claiming that the film shows just how pernicious the Jewish influence in Britain has been. Manny and Danny are beaten up in the ensuing fracas. The play ends with Danny returning to Ireland, with Manny remaining in Britain to try and continue his life, even though he is still liable to fall victim to the prevailing atmosphere of racism.
At one level Waves Breaking on a Shore is a celebration of the spirit of vaudeville, as well as those pioneering days of early cinema when film companies were experimenting with new technology. At another level, however, the play shows the inherent jealousy lurking at the heart of the British social structure, particularly when members of other nationalities and/or religions achieve success in a predominantly white Christian context. One wonders just how much attitudes have changed in the intervening hundred years or so, when we read news stories about the ways in which different members of the Muslim faith are viewed as potential terrorists, simply because they embrace certain rituals - for example namaz, or praying five times a day. The director of this two-part Afternoon Play was John Burgess.