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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 15:26 GMT
Lord of the Rings back on Radio 4
Lord of the Rings is set to become a blockbuster
Lord of the Rings is set to become a blockbuster
BBC Radio 4 is to rebroadcast its 13-hour version of The Lord of the Rings.

The epic tale, which is in cinemas on 19 December with the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, will be broadcast early next year.

English actor Ian Holm appears in both versions.

Ms Boaden is confident of radio version's success
Ms Boaden is confident of radio version's success

It will not be the only epic tale broadcast on the station, with a screenplay about the Falklands War, which the BBC commissioned for TV but was never actually shown, being transmitted.

Controller of Radio 4, Helen Boaden, said she was looking forward to the retelling of JRR Tolkien's tale, adding: "It's a completely memorable experience."

The 20-year old radio version was given to actors on the movie set who had not read the books.

The radio recording became the biggest seller of all titles in the BBC's spoken word collection, with 100,000 copies sold worldwide. It is set to be re-released in three parts.

Falklands

Meanwhile the Falklands Play, by Ian Curteis, is scheduled to appear on 6 April next year as one of a series of radio programmes marking the 20th anniversary of the war.

The play was originally to have been broadcast as a TV drama on 5 April 1987 - on the fifth anniversary of the conflict.

But - according to Curteis - it was cancelled after he refused to make a series of changes to the script which would have "totally destroyed what the play was about".

Balloon 'went up'

He felt the play was dropped because it made the BBC look as though it was cosying up to the government and then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

"I presented Margaret Thatcher and her policy on the Falklands in a favourable light," he said.

After the alleged cancellation, he said, "the balloon went up in no uncertain terms", with debates in both Houses of Parliament.

The Belgrano
Debate still rages over the rights and wrongs of the sinking

Curteis said the corporation went on to argue that it was too politically sensitive to portray the prime minister in the run-up to a general election.

The writer added: "The BBC eventually fell back on the argument that it was a lousy play anyway.

"But the fact that it is being done now shows that the BBC's excuse that it was lousy rather falls to the ground."

As the 20th anniversary of the conflict loomed, he wrote to the BBC.

The battle to get the play aired was not so much a labour of love as a "labour of obstinence", he said.

Changes

The adapted screenplay is concerned with events leading up to and during the Falklands conflict, including the sinking of the Argentinean ship the General Belgrano.

The action takes place in parliament, at Downing Street, the White House, Argentina and on the Falkland Islands.

But time constraints have led to some changes to the original script.

Curteis singled out for special mention the axing of the Pope as a character.

'Problematic'

"Unfortunately, because of the length, I've had to cut the Pope, who acted as a go-between.

"I'm sorry he had to go because the Pope had some rather good jokes - and you don't often hear the Pope tell jokes."

A spokeswoman for BBC Radio 4 said she was unable to comment on the reason for the screenplay's not having been broadcast.

But she added that it was often the case that plays that would have been "problematic" at one time no longer presented difficulties for broadcasters 20 years later.

The Radio 4 audience had greatly enjoyed another Curteis play recently, and she hoped it would feel the same about this one, she said.

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