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The Man Born to Be King

By: Dorothy L. Sayers
Narrated by: full cast,Gabriel Woolf,John Westbrook,Norman Shelley,Mary Wimbush,Miriam Margolyes,John Laurie
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Summary

Dorothy L. Sayers' classic play cycle based on the life and times of Jesus

Dorothy L. Sayers was best known for her mystery novels featuring aristocratic amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. But she was also a poet, playwright and committed Christian, and in The Man Born to Be King she combined art and evangelism to powerful effect, making the story of Christ accessible, relevant and every bit as thrilling as her detective fiction.

Written specially for the BBC Radio, the play cycle caused huge controversy for its depiction of Christ as a character, and its use of contemporary speech instead of Biblical language. However it proved extremely popular with listeners, who wrote in to thank Sayers for making Jesus real to them and reigniting their interest in his remarkable story.

Based on the four Gospels, it includes one story of the Nativity, six plays about Jesus' life and ministry, and five Passion Plays telling of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Jesus' arrest and trial before Pontius Pilate, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Backed up with a sweeping musical score, these immersive dramas surprise and shock us anew and provide fresh, illuminating insight into 'the greatest story ever told'.

The plays included are Kings in Judea, The King's Herald, A Certain Nobleman, The Heirs to the Kingdom, The Bread of Heaven, The Feast of Tabernacles, The Light and The Life, Royal Progress, The King's Supper, The Princes of This World, King of Sorrows and The King Comes to His Own.

Cast and credits

Written by Dorothy L Sayers

Adapted by/Producer: Raymond Raikes

The Evangelist (John Bar-Zebedee): Gabriel Woolf  

Jesus: John Westbrook  

Joseph/ Jacob Ben-Issachar: Norman Shelley   

Simon Bar-Jonah (Simon Peter): Stephen Jack  

Judas Iscariot: Alan Wheatley  

Matthew: Nigel Stock  

Herod The Great: Robert Eddison   

Nicodemus: John Wyse  

Ephraim: Denys Blakelock   

Shadrach: Malcolm Hayes

Rabbit Solomon: John Gabriel   

Phoebe: Caroline Monkhouse 

Flavius: Trader Faulkner  

Calpurnia: Penelope Lee 

Mary Virgin: June Tobin  

Mary Magdalen: Mary Wimbush  

Martha: Marjorie Westbury  

Lazarus: Richard Hurndall  

Benjamin Ben-Hadad: Ralph Truman  

Joseph, kinsman to Jesus: Haydn Jones   

Simeon, kinsman to Jesus: Wilfrid Carter  

Baruch the Zealot: Francis de Wolff  

Baruch’s Wife: Vivienne Chatterton  

Gestas: John Laurie  

Dysmas: Russell Napier  

Simon of Cyrene: Rodney Dias  

Proclus, a Roman Centurion: Trevor Martin  

Roman soldier: Bruce Beeby  

Roman soldier: Harvey Hall  

Joseph of Arimathea: Howieson Culff  

Calaphas, High Priest of Israel: Heron Carvic  

Salome, mother to James and John: Henzie Raeburn  

Mary Cleophas: Molly Rankin  

Balthazar, King of Ethiopia: Paul Danqdah  

Melchior/ A Zealot: Michael Kilgarriff  

Casper: James Dale   

Claudia Procula, wife to Pilate: Mary Law 

Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judaea: Alec Clunes 

Philip: Rolf Lefebvre 

Thomas Didymus/ Father: Philip Leaver  

Mother: Wynne Clark  

Miriam, child: Elizabeth Proud  

Isaac, child/a slave boy: Daniel Rose  

Hannah: Hester Paton-Brown 

James Bar-Zebedee: John Glen  

Andrew Bar-Jonah: John Boxer  

Hezekiah, secretary/ Roman Soldier: John Baker  

Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas: Edward Atienza  

Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judaea: Alec Clunes  

Claudia Procula: Mary Law  

Captain Elihu: Keith Alexander  

Eunice, a Syro-Phoenician: Elizabeth Morgan  

Cleophas: Harry Hutchinson  

Portress at the High Priest’s House: Miriam Margolyes   

Zillah, her daughter: Jo Manning-Wilson  

Issacher, servant: Hugh Dickson  

Susannah, mother to the Bride groom: Betty Baskcomb  

Rebecca, friend to Susannah: Gladys Spencer/ Janet Burnell  

Other cast: Ian Frost, Janette Richer, Nan Marriott-Watson, Janette Richer, Peter Marinker, Raf de la Torre, James Thomason, John Forrest, Michael Goldie  

First broadcast BBC Home Service 19th, 26th Jan, 2nd, 9th , 16th, 23rd Feb, 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 28th, 30th March 1975

 

©2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P)2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

What listeners say about The Man Born to Be King

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A dated masterpiece!

This drama really drew me in. It took a while to get over the dated (older?) British voices, delivering the script as if it was Shakespeare on the stage of the Old Vic. And the dramatic music was very much of its time. Loud brass and percussion. But it all came together fabulously.
I loved the way Sayers wove incidents retrospectively through conversations so it wasn't just a chronological account of Jesus's life.

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Unexpected and Intelligent Drama Serial

This is wonderful story is well told to include politics and emotions rather than just a 'straight' story of the life of Christ. Believer or non-believer this is an attractive listen. For those who like villains, revel in Robert Eddison's faultless portrayal of Herod. Alan Wheatley's Judas is very well drawn, though for me he is forever in my mind the Sheriff of Nottingham of my TV boyhood. Prospective Audible listeners should not hesitate to snap-up this series of 45 minute episodes. This series of plays bears repeated listening. I was extremely pleased to be able to add it to my Audible library.

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Poor characterisations

This play makes Jesus seem like an arrogant charlatan and his disciples like quarrelling children. It also has very outdated music and female voices pretending to be children. A product of its time that does not travel well.

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  • Karen Sampson
  • 15-01-22

Beautiful!

I have loved this book for years. But to read it as a book is a completely different experience than experiencing it as a radio drama which is what it was written to be. I’m so delighted that Audible was able to make this stunning performance available!

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  • D. Rairigh
  • 23-11-22

Follows the Gospel of John pretty well

Out of necessity, Dorothy Sayers takes creative liberties with the Gospel account, but on the whole she made a great effort to be faithful to the Biblical account. It's a worthwhile listen, putting the life of Jesus in somewhat more modern vernacular and helping to identify with the emotions of the real people of that time in history.

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  • Meredith L. Burton
  • 20-08-22

A Beautiful Dramatization of the Life of Jesus

I have always enjoyed the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but I never knew that Dorothy Sayers wrote a cycle of plays based on the life of Jesus Christ. This riveting dramatization is accurate to Scripture. The language is modernized to be more accessible and, hopefully, to whet the appetites of listeners and inspire them to read the Biblical accounts of Jesus's life in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Sayers imbues her characters with humanity, exploring the fears, inadequacies and ultimate faith of the apostles. I love how Sayers provides interesting scenes and fleshes out seemingly minor characters like the Roman Centurion and Pontius Pilate's wife, Claudia. If you enjoy dramas like The Chosen or Biblical dramatizations of any kind, then this series of radio plays is not to be missed.

The voice acting is superb in this series of plays. I particularly enjoyed John Westbrook's portrayal of Jesus, for he captured Christ's humanity and His divinity simultaneously. Other great acting came from the man who portrayed Pilate, the man who portrayed Matthew, the man who portrayed the High Priest Caiaphas, and the woman who portrayed Mary Magdalene. All of the acting was superior, and I could not find a faulty performance in the large cast.
The Man Born to Be King is a marvelous listening experience. Thoroughly recommended! God bless you all.

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  • Aaron Friar
  • 23-04-22

What CS Lewis listened to during Holy Week!

been looking a long time for this classic performance. Fantastic! will listen to it again and again.

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  • bepster2
  • 21-04-22

As it was meant to be

I've read this play cycle many times, but I've always wondered what it would be like to hear it performed as it was meant to be. Imagine my excitement when such a recording appeared on audible! I've never spent a credit on a book more willingly. This recording was made in 1975, which explains some of the special effects (I found the angels in the first play to be basically inaudible), but it holds up extremely well with Ms Sayers' writing behind it. I cried like a baby during the crucifixion. Excellent production all around.

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  • Wesley M.
  • 17-04-22

Outstanding!!

Excellently written, adheres well to the Gospels. Sayers showed great talent. Excellent performance, good actors and good production.

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  • Jane McDonald
  • 10-04-22

Reminds me of The Chosen

Anything by Dorothy Sayers is absolutely delicious. But who knew what a biblical scholar she was? If you’ve read her mysteries, you are aware of the biblical allusions in them. You may also know that Lord Peter Whimsey was a collector of The Divine Comedy. So maybe you are a sleuth about her skills in exegesis. In these plays she makes the gospel come alive. If you like The Chosen, you will be surprised that before there was Dallas Jenkins there was Dorothy Sayers.

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