TINNISWOOD AWARD 2020 WINNER
THE HARTLEPOOL SPY by Ian Martin
Produced by Sam Ward, BBC Studios, 45’, BBC Radio 4
Above: Ian Martin (right) with presenter Patricia Cumper | Photo © Tricia Yourkevich / BBC
THE HARTLEPOOL SPY is a comedy-drama on the themes of xenophobia, groupthink and fake news, based on the North East’s most beloved folk tale: how the people of Hartlepool hanged a monkey as a French spy.
1804: Britain is at war with France. When an enemy warship is wrecked near Hartlepool, the town worthies – corrupt mayor Tucker Palmer (Toby Jones), his wife Mrs Palmer (Monica Dolan), narcissistic Revd. Ferrier (Vic Reeves) and opportunistic landowner Lady Embleton (Gina McKee) – squabble over the loot. Until they spot the shipwreck’s sole survivor: a monkey. A coach arrives, bearing Cavendish (Michael Palin), a spy hunter from the Admiralty who puts Hartlepool under lockdown and arrests the monkey, noting its “Gallic” demeanour. The monkey must stand trial for espionage. Tucker will be witness for the prosecution, and Ferrier will defend. It will be a fair trial. But Cavendish has his own reasons for ensuring the monkey hangs.
The judges said: The Hartlepool Spy is a tale of moral corruption, of self-interest defeating the interests of justice; it is based on a true story and yet the author’s research is worn lightly. It is hilariously, delicately told; the characters are both comic and chilling. Ian Martin’s exciting dialogue fizzed along; it is completely engaging.
Comedy writer Ian Martin was a writer for the BAFTA-winning political satire The Thick of It, starting a long-running association with producer Armando Iannucci, which continued with the Oscar-nominated In The Loop. Martin was a writer-producer on HBO’s VEEP (for which he won two WGA Awards and an Emmy) and a co-writer for the BAFTA-nominated feature The Death Of Stalin. He is a writer and supervising producer for the forthcoming HBO space comedy Avenue 5. Martin is the author of several books including Epic Space and The Coalition Chronicles, and has written for the Architects’ Journal, the Guardian and the New Statesman.
HOME FRONT: A FRAGILE PEACE by Katie Hims
Directed by Jessica Dromgoole, BBC Radio Drama, 75’, BBC Radio 4
The judges said: Beautifully written and incredibly evocative. Celebrating the unique qualities of radio drama. The reader/listener is completely immersed in the world of these characters. A superb finale to an excellent series.
Katie Hims’ first radio play The Earthquake Girl won the Richard Imison Award. Recent work includes King David, Black Dog, Poetry in Motion and Black Eyed Girls, as well as adaptations of the Martin Beck novels. Katie has been writing for Radio 4’s Home Front since it began and has been lead writer for four seasons. Her stage play – Billy the Girl at Soho Theatre for Clean Break – led to an attachment to the National Theatre Studio and a subsequent commission to write a National Theatre Connections play, Variations. She has just finished adapting Middlemarch for Radio 4 and has a commission with Unicorn Theatre.