The Man With Wings by Rachel Joyce

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BBC Afternoon Drama website

BBC Radio 4, 29 March 2012
This charming production had the grown-up son of Jack Leach (Ian McDiarmid) looking back on his childhood, at a time in 1947 when life in his Gloucestershire village was spartan, to say the least. Rationing was still in full force; and very few of the men had returned from battle, leaving the community almost exclusively peopled by women and children.
Into this community came a group of travelling nuns, including Mireille (Niamh Cusack), who befriends the boy (Jo Joyce-Venables) and gives him some feeling of self-belief. Then an anonymous man (Tom Goodman-Hill) also comes; he is badly injured, but Mireille and the boy nurse him back to health, largely out of side of the rest of the villagers. The man has a secret about the boy's personal life - which will prove devastasting for the boy's future - but this is mitigated by one ambition: the man wants to fly. In the end the man achieves his wish, but not in a way that anyone expects.
The Man With Wings recalls an era that few remember with any affection; even though Britain has ostensibly won the war, the people had to endure severe shortages and bad weather. Men were supposed to be demobilized, but for some reason they remained on active service. However dramatist Rachel Joyce shows how even the most mundane aspects of life can be overcome through the power of the imagination; if you believe with sufficient conviction that something unexpected might happen, then your wishes just might come true.
Ian McDiarmid narrated the story in nostalgic tones; this was obviously something that would stay with him throughout his life. Niamh Cusack's Mireille retained her generosity of spirit, even though life had been generally unkind to her. By doing so she was able to achieve her wishes. The mood of Gordon House's production was greatly enhanced by Lucinda Mason Brown's melodies.