BBC Radio 4, 11 August 2010
A fictional exploration of the relationship between James Joyce (Aidan
Mcardle) and his younger brother Stanislaus (Andrew Scott), Stannie and Jim began as an Odd-Couple-style
comedy set in Trieste in 1914 involving two opposing personalities. James was a drinker, a lover of the good life, who spent
much of his time sponging off his hard-working, sober-minded brother. Stannie worked as an English teacher, and tried to get
pupils for his brother, so as to relieve the financial burden; but James was far more interested in his work, much of which
consisted of finishing Dubliners. Eventually matters came to a head as the war-clouds darkened over the Italian city.
Stanislaus fell in love but was rebuffed by Italian beauty Beatrice (Alison Petit) - an intentional re-evocation of Dante,
by the way. Meanwhile James continued to write; this made Stanislaus so angry that he resolved to leave his brother for good.
However Stanislaus was arrested on suspicion of spying (having been associated with the nascent Italian nationalist movement),
and sent to jail for four years. The play ended in 1918, with James now a successful - if still impoverished - author, and
Stanislaus released from jail to face an uncertain future. He tried to borrow money off James, but we were well aware that
nothing would come of it.
Constructed in the manner of other tales involving great artists and their close-companions/relatives
(remember Bennett's Prick Up Your Ears, about Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell), Stannie and Jim showed how
writers and other creative personalities are often given tremendous leeway to pursue their work. They might be obnoxious people,
but their talent redeems them. By contrast mere mortals have to cope with the day-to-business of survival, a task that frequently
proves beyond them. The director of this entertaining Afternoon Play was Sally Avens.