In his early seventies, Sir Frederick Ashton, the celebrated dancer and choreographer, had for some time been living with the mercurial Martyn Thomas. It was a volatile relationship in which Ashton, by many years the older partner, had become increasingly insecure, adding to his fairly constant anxieties about maintaining the success of his glittering career, and making enough money to live on.

Over the years, Ashton had become fairly well connected to royalty and was an accustomed visitor to courtly bashes, where his fearless ability to entertain made him welcome. But it was the Queen Mother with whom he established a particular friendship, inspiring Princess Margaret to ask Ashton to commission a new ballet for her mother's 80th birthday. Ashton decided to use the music from Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, with Leslie Collier and Mikhail Baryshnikov in the principal roles.

Christopher William Hill's poignant comedy, based on these events, imagines Ashton's struggles with a challenging commission and, simultaneously, his increasing difficulties in managing a fragmenting love affair.


The Queen Mother....Phyllida Law

Sir Frederick Ashton....Jeremy Clyde

Martyn Thomas....William Beck

William Chappell....Benjamin Whitrow

Baryshnikov/Roberts....Gunnar Cauthery

Ruth Fermoy/Interviewer....Marlene Sidaway

Nicholls/Reporter....Kim Wall

Leslie Collier....Madeline Clements

Pianist....Catherine Herriott

Written by Christopher William Hill

Produced and Directed by John Taylor

A Fiction Factory production for BBC Radio 4.