BBC Radio 4, 16 November 2011
Listening to this play once again after two years, I was struck by the
extent to which author Stephen Wakelam is concerned with the idea of image-making. E. M. Forster (Stephen Campbell Moore)
is on the cusp of achieving nationwide fame as the author of Howards End (first published in 1910), but has to repress
his true inclinations (at this time homosexuality was still considered a criminal offence). Hence he is very much in the position
of one of his heroes (in Howards End, or A Passage to India) of being unable to 'connect' with his true
self, or those whom he loves. Moreover Forster feels it is his responsibility to reconstruct himself in an image favourable
to his mother Lily (Diana Quick), who lives with him at a house in Weybridge - the epitome of Home Counties respectability.
The scenes with Roger Fry (Malcolm Tierney) show how the image often overwhelms the
personality underneath. As a member of the Bloomsbury set, Fry expects his subjects to conform to another image - which might
be summed up as fin-de-siecle Bohemianism - and insists that Forster should pose in a certain way. Needless to say Forster
complies, but it produces further mental agonies,
Forster's mental struggles formed the seed for his novel Maurice, which
only goes to show how he drew upon his own experiences for many of his stories. On the other hand, I could not help but feel
sorry for him: many of his conflicts recalled those of Oscar Wilde, as the Irishman struggled to come to terms with his sexuality
and its consequences in the late Victorian period. Whereas Wilde suffered the ultimate indignity of imprisonment, Forster
managed to escape censure; but the two of them experienced similar agonies in a repressive society.
Stephen Wakeham's play benefited from a second listen; it is one of the best bio-dramas
I have heard in a long time.