“Mrs Updike,” a 90-minute radio play by Margaret Heffernan “about the tempestuous relationship between one of the most famous American writers of the twentieth century, John Updike, and his mother,” was broadcast today by BBC Radio and can be heard online for the next seven days. Thanks to member Andrew Moorhouse for tipping us off to it.
“Mrs Updike” features Eileen Atkins as the title character, Charles Edwards as John Updike, Josef Lindsay as Young John Updike, Stuart Milligan as Wesley, Garrick Hagon as Springer, Joseph May as the Interviewer, and Lorelei King as Lara. Heffernan has written three plays for radio, “including a pair of plays about Enron.”
From the BBC Radio description:
Updike said that one of his earliest memories was seeing his mother at her writing desk. He wrote many stories about his mother and mothers in general, almost all isolated by their intelligence and sensitivity, which their sons both love and fear. Replete with tension, they mirror the journey all children must make from love to separation to attempts at coexistence and back to love. But the stories are always about the son’s journey, as though the mother has gone nowhere. But what of Mrs. Updike’s journey?
This play brings Updike and his mother together as Updike struggles with another failed marriage. He comes home to his mother, expecting support and sympathy, to discover for the first time that his mother is a person too, with hopes and fears and disappointments he had never seen. His mother challenges him: can he love anyone whom he does not see merely as an extension of himself? And, if he can’t, what kind of writer, what kind of man, does that make him?