Review: Dangerous Visions: Billions

BillionsBy Ed Harris

Radio 4, June 17th

Fatal accident? Unrecoverable injury? No worries: your personal insurance plan ensures that your loved ones won’t even notice you’ve gone…

This is the sort of drama that I was hoping for from this Radio 4 season: a science fiction situation is set up, and its ramifications thought through via the characters. Where The Sleeper didn’t work for me, Billions definitely does.

Don’t be put off by the deliberately choppy start of the play: there’s a reason both within the fiction (not revealed till the end) and structurally, since it’s giving the impression of how major trauma affects people. You don’t remember everything that happens around the time you get bad news, just the key points – and that’s exactly what Blake Ritson’s character Mark experiences when his wife is seriously injured.

The play is based around the idea that a clone (which has been given regular memory updates) of the deceased/injured is sent to take their place. It should be the perfect solution, but it isn’t, and Ed Harris’ clever play deals with how this affects the natural grieving and moving on process, the whole question of the identity of the clone, and how stagnation could set in.

There are numerous twists and turns, with seemingly throwaway lines assuming greater significance as the play progresses, and the ending is chilling – and beautifully played by Ritson, Raquel Cassidy and Lizzy Watts.

Verdict: One to listen to again once you know how it concludes – recommended. 9/10

Paul Simpson

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