Daisy Dunn

The astonishing stories behind today’s culture wars: Radio 4’s Things Fell Apart reviewed

Plus: Radio 4’s Mosley Must Fall is an engaging drama that’s missing one thing – Mosley

The films Frank Schaeffer made in the 1970s galvanised the Evangelical movement and kickstarted one of the longest-running American culture wars. [Image: Boston Globe]

Martin McNamara, the writer of Mosley Must Fall, a play on Radio 4 this week, must have had a jolt when he opened the papers to find old Oswald back in the news. Oxford University is said to have accepted £6 million from a trust set up by the fascist leader’s son, the racing driver Max, using funds passed down through the family. Cries of ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ have been echoing down the High in Oxford for many years now. If Mosley must fall, too, then this play may prove particularly timely.

Although set in Whitechapel, east London, in 1936, the story consciously teeters over live issues, including immigration, the polarisation of society and the threat of violent protest. The main characters belong to an Irish family living on the path Mosley and his supporters are planning to march down in their latest recruitment drive. Should they stay home and close the curtains or should they take part on one side or the other? Maureen McEnroe (Maggie Cronin), the mother of two grown sons, can hardly bear to engage with the question: ‘What did I say about politics at the table?’

The first episode traced the pro-life movement to the ambitions of a boy growing up in the Swiss Alps

Much of the play is taken up with their discussions and arguments over the best course. There is talk of Mosley leading ‘a holy war’ and defending his country against ‘foreign interlopers’. There is talk of the Civil War in Spain and of Generalissimo Franco stepping in to ‘halt the desecration’. It isn’t until two thirds of the way through the drama that we actually get to the march, which descends predictably into a punch-up. We hear some soundbites of Mosley, but he is largely absent, standing, like his Blackshirts, safely aloof.

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