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Director and Producer: Cherry Cookson

Drama on 3 - BBC Radio 3 - TX 24 June 2012

Inspired by past events at Wimbledon, this comedy by Martyn Wade takes as its theme a famous duel between Elizabethan rivals the Earl of Oxford and Philip Sidney on a Real tennis court. Having failed to satisfy an argument with a more traditional duel, the pair resort to a five set game in front of Queen Elizabeth herself - the outcome of which will decide not only personal pride but also the marital fate of the Queen, as she decrees that proposed nuptials with a French duke will only take place if Oxford wins...

Crick - Geoffrey Whitehead drops a poisoned bowl of strawberries and cream...
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Queen Elizabeth...Celia Imrie
Simier........Alex Jennings
Earl of Leicester....David Troughton
Earl of Oxford...Nicholas Boulton
Philip Sidney....Thom Tuck
Duke of Anjou....Michael Maloney
Crick.....Geoffrey Whitehead
Benjamin.....Philip Fox
William...Carl Prekopp

Assistant Sound Engineer...Samuel Brazier
Tennis scenes recorded at the
Millennium Real Tennis Court, Middlesex University
Sound design...Matt Thompson

Director and Producer.....Cherry Cookson
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The marathon 2010 Men’s Singles contest at Wimbledon between Isner and Mahut brings to mind an earlier tennis match, the outcome of which was of huge historical significance. In this historical comedy by one of radio’s most talented writers, the story unfolds in the summer of 1579 at the court of Queen Elizabeth 1. Two young courtiers - PHILIP SIDNEY and EDWARD DE VERE, EARL OF OXFORD - played a Real tennis match which ended in a challenge to a duel. The cause of the quarrel, the history books tell us, was the French Duke of Anjou, and his attempt to woo Queen Elizabeth - but might not a disputed line-call have played a part?

In a less than serious, occasionally anachronistic version of historical events the play offers reflections on sporting endeavour (with contemporary parallels and resonances] and describes the curious proceedings involved in endeavouring to secure the match - whether it be tennis or matrimony. Sidney and Oxford have never competed on court before, but they are already rivals due to their differences of opinion regarding Anjou and Elizabeth. Sidney's against the marriage, not least because his uncle, the Earl of Leicester - a former lover of the queen, hopes to have a second chance with her. Sidney's a thoroughly decent chap – while he lacks political substance, he is good at penning verses. Oxford is a highly educated, treacherous, snobbish, spoilt, conceited brat - a patron of literature, and, like Sidney, a spare-time poet. He's an Anjou enthusiast - and should the marriage go ahead anticipates that his own position in court will be elevated. He plays tennis not only to win, but also to be admired. The two rivals decide that a tennis match would be rather more appropriate [and less life threatening] than a duel to settle their differences, and so the Queen is invited to attend the match- since for two weeks a year, she pretends to be a real tennis fan; that is, a
real Real Tennis fan. Also present is the dreaded Duke of Anjou, intent on securing a marriage with the Queen, and his besotted Master of the Bedchamber, Simier, who unknown to Anjou has already had a few dallies with the ‘virgin’ Queen.

After prolonged and typical dithering, the Queen is pressed into hinting that she'll give Anjou the verdict today – and after a while, bored with the endless rallies, she announces that her marriage plans will be determined by the outcome of the match. And so begins one of the most exciting Real real tennis matches of all time, for not only is the winner of the game to be decided, but there are dangerous plans afoot - in and around the tennis court - to assassinate the Duke of Anjou.

The cast are all well known, with relative newcomer Thom Tuck [SIDNEY] an actor and stand up comic, who works frequently on the Edinburgh Fringe and is part of the Penny Dreadfuls.

Martyn Wade has written a number of acclaimed radio plays based loosely and irreverently on historical/literary figures. Subjects include Diogenes the Cynic (The Dog's Life), Sir Francis Bacon (The House of Learning), and several Victorian writers (Bookcases). He and director Cherry Cookson have collaborated on many highly successful productions over a long and distinguished career together, including many Classic Serials [THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES and THE PALLISERS] and several plays for Radio 3 including a major drama about Benjamin Britten and the Aldeburgh Festival. Their play for Radio 4 last year about the composer E.J. Moeran received rave reviews – “Reunited with his most frequent collaborator, producer Cherry Cookson, a play that went straight to the heart and ranks as my favourite among Wade's radio oeuvre." “And where else, other than on BBC Radio 4 Extra, could you find plays like Gondal...to radio masters Martyn Wade and Cherry Cookson, much thanks." [Financial Times September 2011].

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