Review: Dangerous Visions: Concrete Island

Concrete IslandBy J.G. Ballard

Radio 4, June 23

Architect Robert Maitland is in a car accident and finds himself caught on an artificial island between the carriageways – simple, surely, to get himself picked up?

Ballard’s story has been updated to contemporary times – so there are plenty of references to mobile phones and their inability to work, or people choosing not to have one – but it’s retained its debts to Robinson Crusoe.

Andrew Scott (Sherlock’s Moriarty) is convincing as the almost-broken man whose attitudes perform an almost 180-degree turn between the start of the play and its conclusion. Graham White has added in occasional voicemail messages from Maitland’s wife, lover, and son, which help to sell the idea of time passing, particularly when combined with descriptions of the way in which his car is covered by the rapidly growing grass.

Whether the situation is in any way plausible is almost beside the point – it’s how Maitland reacts to it, and the dynamics between him and the two other people on the “island” (one of whom is perfectly capable of getting on and off!) that drive the story. None of them, it has to be said, is particularly sympathetic, and as Ballard himself explained in the Face-to-Face interview, he wasn’t very concerned about creating rounded characters.

Verdict: Not feeling as rushed as the version of The Drowned World, this is a bleak end to the Dangerous Visions season. 7/10

Paul Simpson

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