Missing Dates by Simon Gray

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BBC Radio 4, 28 February 2008

Taking place over a 30-year period between 1965 and 1995, Simon Gray’s new play (Radio 4) chronicles the family conflicts of husband and wife Michael (Jasper Britton) and Anita (Monica Dolan), Michael’s brother Jason (Toby Stephens), their daughter Wendy (Faye Castelow), her husband Dominic (Joseph Kloska) and Wendy’s children. The plot touches on familiar themes such as divorce, adultery, lack of parental control, depression and sexual hang-ups.


Gray has enjoyed a long and distinguished career, stretching back over forty years and encompassing theatre, television and radio. Listing to Missing Dates, I sensed that he is probably played out; like the writer Michael in the play, he really doesn’t have much to say about his characters. For long stretches of Jane Morgan’s production, I felt as if I was listening to a non-stop rant from three white male characters – Michael, Jason and Dominic – whose values remained firmly rooted in the Britain of half a century ago, where women knew their place and concepts such as alternative sexualities or racial equality simply do not exist. In this scheme of things women know their place; they are either long-suffering victims of their husband’s sexual inadequacies, or crazed neurotics, unable to cope with the stresses of contemporary life. I was strongly reminded of John Osborne’s mid-60s classic Inadmissable Evidence that provided a wonderful part for Nicol Williamson, but now seems as much outdated in terms of its sexual politics as the drawing-room comedies dominating London’s West End in the mid-50s. Toby Stephens and Jasper Britton did what they could with the material, but failed to redeem an unsatisfactory piece of work.