Judith Adams

In A Bamboo Grove

Jan 2008

RADIO TIMES Pick of the Week Spoken Word Choice

RADIO CHOICE: Observer, Independent on Sunday, Saturday Guardian, Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph

45 minute dramatisation based on a short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1921). Afternoon Play (Watershed/BBC production) for Radio 4

Broadcast Wednesday 23rd January 2008, 2.15pm

Starring Derek Jacobi

pr. Chris Wallis


It is raining in the hills, around a Buddhist monastery. A Traveling Monk is resting there for the winter, and painting his memories of a terrible murder which he has been a part-witness to, and which his mind cannot solve.

At the heart of Japanese motivation is attention to honour and shame: the concept of saving, and losing, face. In a story set in a semi-artificial outdoor scene (the green-lit bamboo grove, now familiar from such films as House of Flying Daggers), this intensely modernist, unsolvable crime story, told from several different and unreliable perspectives, is a comment both on our universal need to lie to ourselves, and a denial of objective reality. To deny the comfort of resolving a whodunit pattern is a deeply unsettling act. It is also what it means to be fully human.

Art struggles to make sense of the chaos – be that through the seven individual and partial testimonies in the savagely spare original story, Kurosawa’s epic Rashomon, or the modest painting of a monk in this radio adaptation: a participant in the present, looking for hope in the brutal randomness of the past.

“…the enjoyment of this dark drama is only to be had in how it is told.”

Jane Anderson, Radio Times Choice.

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