13th December 1997
"Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the first UK Internet Play of the Month, accessible to anyone with a computer and a modem. It even stars the PM's father-in-law, Tony Booth. Modern or what?
Despite its aura of gimmickry, Internet drama has obvious advantages and disadvantages. It bypasses regulatory and commissioning systems. Although this play, Francis Beckett's The Sons of Catholic Gentlemen, was first broadcast on the London commercial station LBC, monied producers could put drama on to the Internet without having to get it commissioned first.
For the listener, too, though at first it seems perverse to put an aural genre on to what is still primarily a visual medium, there are evident benefits. This is "radio drama on demand", accessible (from http://www.irdp.co.uk/playmonth.htm ) on Real Audio stereo whenever a listener chooses, for as long as they choose. And of course there's a potentially global audience.
So what of the play itself.......Marrying the public school drama to the Catholic childhood story, it creates a Catholic public school play. The devout working-class parents of 15-year-old Jackson stint to send him to a Jesuit institution where the humiliations of public school are augmented by the threat of God's wrath......Beckett also throws in a class theme, while Booth is admirably restrained as a priest (affording us the intertextual irony of hearing this master of excess play a continent cleric)."
14th December 1997
"It's amazing what people are using real audio for. This week, a British outfit called Independent Radio Drama Productions started broadcasting an 'Internet play of the month' on its site (www.irdp.co.uk/playmonth.htm).
The first production stars Tony Booth, the Prime Minister's father-in-law, in Francis Beckett's satire about an oppressive Jesuit public school, The Sons of Catholic Gentlemen. The play consists of five links - each containing a separate episode - on a Web page. Click on an episode, wait a few seconds and out boom Booth and the rest of the cast from one's speakers.
The audio quality is not terrific, but the dialogue and sound effects are perfectly intelligible. And it's in stereo."
23rd October 1997
"With the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference still ringing in our ears and Isis, the Independent Schools Information Service, about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the production of a decidedly anti-public school play cannot have come as welcome news. But our independent schools are used to the cut and thrust of their critics and The Sons of Catholic Gentlemen certainly produced more than a few unkindly lacerations."
25th October 1997
"One of the results of Catholic emancipation in Britain was the creation of exclusive fee-paying Catholic schools, to which parents who could afford it sent their offspring for education and a grounding in the faith. One such school came in for an excoriating exposé in The Sons of Catholic Gentlemen (Sunday Playhouse, LBC, 12th October), a first radio play for Francis Beckett........Like first novels, this play felt autobiographical and so indeed, I discovered, it was.......The play started and finished in the confessional, a useful device for going back over past sins and omissions. Peter Jackson had not been to confession for 30 years and admitted to the sin of pride, learned from his father, who had wanted him to have "the best education in the world". As a final act of rebellion the boy desecrates the altar and declares that he does not believe in God. The grown man looking back is of the same mind but makes a donation to the church, and his confessor, seeing this as a token of repentance, offers to give him absolution if only to cheer him up."