Radio 3 to air unfilmed Dylan Thomas screenplay adapting Robert Louis Stevenson

As part of its spring programming marking the centenary of the birth of the poet Dylan Thomas, BBC Radio 3 is set to air a new production of The Beach of Falesa, Thomas’s previously unproduced screenplay adapting the 1892 Robert Louis Stevenson short story of the same name. The radio play will receive its world premiere on Sunday 4 May, with the following day seeing one Thomas poem read every hour on the same station, including archival recordings of Thomas himself. The poet, of course, has historically strong associations with BBC Radio, most notably his radio play Under Milk Wood, first broadcast with Richard Burton amongst the cast on the BBC Third Programme in January 1954, two months after Thomas, in the words of Nick Cave, died drunk in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Though never produced, Thomas’ adaptation of “The Beach of Falesá” did see publication as a novella in 1963, a decade after his death. Burton and Christopher Isherwood are reputed to have worked on bringing it to the screen, to no avail, and both Thomas’ script and Stevenson’s short story remain unfilmed (though another attempt was made by Alan Sharp, the Scottish screenwriter of Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand and Arthur Penn’s Night Moves). Written shortly after Stevenson moved to Samoa, “The Beach of Falesá” marks a shift in his corpus from romanticism to harsh realism, exploring the exploitation of islanders by European colonisers and the ramifications of inter-racial relationships under those circumstances.

The same day as the Beach of Falesa broadcast, Radio 3 will also air a documentary by poet Gwyneth Lewis about the voice that runs through Thomas’ work, drawing from the wealth of recordings made by Thomas in his lifetime.

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