I know nothing about John Fletcher, but I wish I did. This play was broadcast on the BBC about twenty years ago. All I know about Fletcher is that he seems to have amassed an impressive body of radio work, in a variety of genres. I was going to start off the blog by posting Howard Barker's Scenes from an Execution but then I had the craving to re-listen to Death and the Tango. It's one of my favorite radio plays, a strange, surreal combination of comedy and drama and metaphysics. And tango. It won a Giles Cooper Award in 1990.
There are many remarkable aspects to the play. I love its scope. Death and the Tango travels from Birmingham to sweepingly epic vistas, all within the space of less than two hours. The visual backdrop is remarkable, but it is also grounded in a basic sense of drama. The two main characters interact with each other in an ebb and flow of dramatic tension, growing and changing in response to their new circumstances and decisions. It's a great example of how, through character and arc, even the most abstract and bizarre story can ground itself in a satisfying emotional reality.
The landscape is alien, but the people and their desires are accessible and captivating. It is a story of obsession and search for meaning, and there is nothing else like it in the world. I particularly love the imagery of the ocean liner, and the transformation that the female character undergoes near the end – it is strikingly visual, but that imagery is fundamentally tied to her dramatic arc. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have. Special thanks to the original poster at radioarchive. That community is perhaps the greatest and most useful thing that has happened to audio drama, and I urge you to support them.
Download Death and the Tango Here