Wednesday, 2 July 2008

An Apocalypse for Actors

A different kind of end-of-the-world book this time: a 1950s TV play by the excellent but mostly forgotten Marghanita Laski.

Laski (1915-1988) was a prominent and talented left-wing author and journalist from a prominent and talented family of left-wing Jewish intellectuals. Fortunately for fans of excellent writing, the great Persephone Books have resurrected several of her novels, including the feminist time-travel/subtle-horror story The Victorian Chaise-Longue, which has the traditional subdued, elegant Persephone cover.

For our purposes, though, we're looking at the published script to her 1959 TV drama, The Offshore Island. Due to the limitations of recording technology and the fact that it was a BBC production, and they had a policy of wiping out what recorded shows they had at the time, and for years afterwards, I can only assume that the TV film is lost forever, and only survives in the form of this book.

The blurb above gives you the basic idea: a handful of Britons who have survived the nuclear apocalypse are getting on with what life is available to them in a relatively unscathed pocket of land, when a group of American soldiers arrive. Needless to say, things get much worse very quickly.

It's also interesting to read the publisher's note on the front page: it captures the mood of the early anti-nuclear-weapons movement, and indeed Laski was an early and fervant support of CND.

The Offshore Island is a little dated, but it's still a powerful little piece of theatrical writing.

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