Sunday, 21 February 2016

Robert Westall - 'The Wheatstone Pond'

This BBC radio drama is a treat for fan of old-school supernatural horror. Starring John Duttine and dramatised from Westall's story by Martin Reed, it's the tale of an apparently harmless project to drain the eponymous boating lake. A local antique dealer is keen to see if there are any interesting finds, as is the curator of the local museum. But what they find in the sludge at the bottom of the pond is of more than historical curiosity.

What I like about this is the way it's carefully constructed and rather low-key for much of its length, but when the horror emerges it is very disturbing. Westall, most of whose works were for children, really knew how to reveal something nasty in a subtle, intelligent way. There's a sound back story featuring a mediaeval abbey, the murder of an occultist, and a model boat.

Westall's work has been sadly neglected by TV and film producers, perhaps because he's out of fashion, or seen as primarily a children's author. Maybe it's London-centric snobbery, or simply that deceased authors don't get traction. Whatever the reason(s), though, it's sad that one of Britain's best ghost story writers of the 20th century has never received the screen treatment his work deserves.

Anyway, three weeks left to listen to 'The Wheatstone Pond'.

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