Pandemic by John Dryden

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 26-28 March 2012
John Dryden's ingenious three-part thriller imagines a world destroyed by a violent virus epidemic, which is first diagnosed as bird flu, but then understood to be a far more dangerous disease (called "red-eye"), that can wipe out whole populations at random. The disease breaks out in the world's most populous cities, such as Bangkok and Sao Paolo, but rapidly spreads around the globe causing mayhem in its wake. Even in Great Britain, which remains largely unaffected by the disaster, there is a chronic shortage of labour.
Pandemic is constructed as a series of three quest narratives ("The Present," "The Future," and "The Past"), in which three protagonists discover the causes and effects of the disaster. In the first, Dr. Jan Roldano (Ben Daniels), a microbiologist invited to give a keynote lecture at a conference in Bangkok, is unwittingly drawn into a quest to find out what happened. In the second play, set five years later, after the disaster has wiped out the population, civil servant Diane Harper (Emily Beecham) discovers many of the secrets that the government tried to suppress about what happened. In the third play Richard Frankel (Paul Fox), one of a group of eco-warriors, tries to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend Anna (Marene Vanholk), and discovered how the pandemic originated. The trilogy ends with an echo of the first episode, reminding us of just how deadly the virus actually was.
In dramatic terms Pandemic is rather like an onion, with layer upon of layer of plot peeled away - in the present, future and the past - until we find out exactly what happened. The media believe the disaster was initiated by Osama Bin Laden; the truth is much more sinister. The production as a whole is an aural feast, with Steve Bond's sound-design and Sacha Putnam's music creating an eerie effect, with voices and music layered upon one another: the form is rather like the content, it needs to be peeled apart to be fully appreciated.
Genuinely frightening and frighteningly true: Pandemic might be science fiction, but it could so easily happen.