Review: Dangerous Visions: The Drowned World

Drowned WorldBy J.G. Ballard

Radio 4, June 16th / 22nd

Evolution is running in reverse; the world is warming up. Soon England will be abandoned for good…

Graham White’s adaptation of Ballard’s novel inevitably suffers from the requirement to cram as much as possible into sixty minutes. Ironically, after complaining that the first play (The Sleeper) could have been told in less time, the second Dangerous Visions contribution would have benefitted from either a ninety-minute or two one-hour slots.

It means that some of the plot is telescoped – particularly towards the end – although White ensures that it never is pushed into unintelligibility. Those who know Ballard’s novel will recognise where corners have been cut; others will wonder at the speed of events during the last quarter of the play.

Ballard’s dystopian visions are the benchmark against which this season is being set, and this is a convincing version of a world where things are going backwards – both physically and mentally. The lovers at the heart of the story, Kerans and Beatrice, experience this as primal urges begin to reassert themselves, while others succumb to the baser desires of humanity.

Verdict: Ballard’s text isn’t to everyone’s taste; while this loses some of the subtext of the original, this gives a good flavour of his dark imaginings.  7/10

Paul Simpson

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