Dangerous Visions 2016: Review: News from Nowhere

News fromBy William Morris, dramatized by Sarah Woods

BBC Radio 4, May 26, iPlayer link here

A man from May 2016 finds himself in a very different future…

Sarah Woods’ dramatization of William Morris’ view of a Marxist future may well irritate you at times – particularly when it recounts the “history” of the present day and suggests that another Peterloo Massacre could happen in Trafalgar Square (beat for beat as it occured in 1819)  as a result of a general strike against austerity, or when a magic wand appears to be waved and all our current problems such as climate change are “dealt with” (without saying how). However, go back to Morris’ original, and you realise that Woods has done an excellent job in transplanting the didactic qualities of the original into a present day context.

The narrator – William Guest – finds himself in an apparently utopian future, and discovers the way in which the world has changed so that all work is pleasurable – and therefore everyone joins in. There’s perhaps a little more cynicism in the drama than the original story, but Woods has had to change surprisingly little about the future world Morris suggests. There’s the occasional oddity: some characters assume Guest means “poorly” when he says “poor” because the concept is so alien to them; later on, another one tells him that in his time, she would have been poor.

Verdict: The most overtly political play of the season. 7/10

Paul Simpson

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