Listen to “Dearest Squirrel – the John Osborne Letters”

On Sunday 11th December, BBC Radio 4extra presents a fascinating insight not only into the life of one the UK’s leading mid-century playwrights and his relationships, it’s also an authentic celebration of the lost world of repertory theatre.

John Osborne meets Pamela Lane in 1951 and within three months the couple are married. So begins an extraordinary love affair that lasts over 30 years.

A completely fresh insight into the mind of one of the UK’s greatest playwrights, the letters between John Osborne and his first wife, actress Pamela Lane, are also a love letter to a now defunct system of repertory theatre and life in post-war Britain.

As these letters reveal, soon after their divorce, Osborne and Lane began a mutually supportive, loyal, frequently stormy and sometimes sexually intimate alliance lasting thirty years until Osborne’s death. By the mid- 1980s, they had become closer and more trusting than they had been since their earliest years together.

‘You are for me what you always were’, Pamela told him, ‘I am in love with you still’.

It is, he declared, ‘my fortune to have loved someone for a lifetime’.

Acerbic, witty, candid and heartbreaking, the letters reveal a unique relationship – troubled, tender and enduring.

The author, Peter Whitebrook, was born in London and has written and broadcast extensively on the theatre and literature. His co-adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath won a Fringe First Award. His biography of John Osborne was nominated for both the Sheridan Morley Prize for biography and the Theatre Book Prize.

Read by Simon Shepherd and Amanda Root
Abridged by Polly Coles
Producer: Clive Brill

This omnibus was first broadcast in 5 parts on BBC Radio 4 in 2018. It is a Brill production.

Broadcast at 6.30am on Sunday December 11th, the 70-minute programme is available for some time after initial broadcast on the BBC IPlayer service. Find it here


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