Review: Ghosts of Heathrow

Ghosts of heathrowBy Sebastian Baczkiewicz

Radio 4, September 22 2014 (on iPlayer for a week following)

In his Premier Inn room at Heathrow, Martin isn’t thinking about much more than his presentation the next day – but the past is about to catch up with him…

This 45 minute Afternoon Drama comes from the pen of Sebastian Baczkiewicz, the creator of one of Radio 4’s hidden gems, the fantasy series Pilgrim. Paul McGann, Susannah Harker and Dudley Sutton lead a strong cast in a tale that combines true stories of the spirits that haunt London’s first airport – including the businessman who is sometimes seen on the main runway – with an increasingly spooky set of events that befall an ordinary salesman, in from San Diego for a conference.

Both McGann and Harker are used to the demands of this sort of drama – McGann has considerable experience as the Eighth Doctor on audio; Harker played Sapphire in Big Finish’s continuation of the Sapphire and Steel adventures. It requires utter conviction otherwise the audience is pulled away from the points of view of the characters and start to question more than they should. Baczkiewicz holds the main reveal until over halfway through the drama – although chances are you’ve probably guessed most of it by then – but sensibly doesn’t make it a done deal for the characters: the rest of the play is devoted to the gradual realisation of its truth, and what that can mean.

Eloise Whitmore’s sound design has to reflect both the down to Earth nature of some elements, and the rather more ethereal parts that creep in as the story progresses, and she very neatly uses the audioscape in the scenes where Baczkiewicz turns the table on the usual scenes of ghost-hunting.

Verdict: An unsettling drama with a surprisingly upbeat ending. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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