Greenmantle by John Buchan, adapted by Patricia Hannah

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BBC Radio 7, 30-31 August 2010
On the face of it, Bert Coules' adaptation of Greenmantle embodied the kind of attitudes towards 'the East,' which now seem out-of-date. Using the spy-thriller plot as a framework, in which hero Richard Hannay (David Robb) travels to Constantinople with his faithful chum Sandy (James Fleet), to solve the problem of Greenmantle, Coules viewed the Ottoman Empire as an example of the mysterious and unknowable 'Orient.' The British characters lacked cultural sensitivity, as they consistently mispronounced Turkish people and place-names - "Galata" Bridge rather than "Galata" Bridge, "Ezerum" rather than "Erzurum," and "Sulliman" rather than "Suleyman" the Magnificent. Coules represented Ottoman life in bestial terms: Constantinople was a filthy, evil-smelling stew of seedy back-streets and gazinos. One such gazino, presided over by a seedy Italian, Angelo Ciprano, offered customers a tribal (and hence 'uncivilized' in British terms) dance in which "tribal savage passion was beating in the air."
However Ottoman culture was not that savage: Sandy could readily assume a courtier's disguise without fear of discovery, either by the Ottomans or his fellow-Britishers. This strategy emphasized British superiority: whereas a British agent could readily and convincingly assume an alternative identity, the same would not apply to his Ottoman counterpart.
However Coules stressed that the British faced a far greater threat from the Germans, led by the sadistic Von Sturm (Jack Klaff), and supported by Hilde (Juliet Aubrey), a Mata Hari-like character who pretended to be an archaeologist yet used her job as a front, as she tried to instigate a Holy War within the Near East. Hilde was a thoroughly unscrupulous sort; fluent in several languages, including Ottoman and English. She moved seamlessly between different armed forces, sowing seeds of doubt while trying to manipulate the followers of Islam.
As the story unfolded, it lost its anti-Ottoman focus, as the two British heroes escaped from Hilde's clutches with the help of a kindly Ottoman soldier Huseyin (Hash Sanes). Through a series of devious schemes, they contrived to have Hilde killed off by the Ottoman forces and restored order to the Near East. In doing so, both Hannay and Sandy learned something about so-called 'eastern' values; the love of open spaces, the desire to be close to God, and the unswerving dedication to a particular cause. The adaptation ended with Sandy giving a climactic speech in defence of Greenmantle, and Hannay looking forward to a future when the Ottoman Empire would be free from colonial influence and learn to stand up for itself. History proved the accuracy of Hannay's prediction; in 1923 (seven years after the time when Greenmantle was set), the new Turkish Republic emerged from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
I approached this adaptation with considerable scepticism, fearing that it would be nothing more than a Boy's Own adventure with colonialist overtones. It is to Coules' credit that he encouraged us to look at Greenmantle in context as an up-to-the-minute response to current events during the First World War.