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A Little Like Drowning

aired in 1989

a BBC Radio Play
Written by Anthony Minghella

With Peggy Ashcroft, Jane Gurnett, Alan Rickman, and Juliet Stevenson

Discussing this play, Anthony Minghella said,

"My grandmother was a real figurehead in my life. She was a tiny peasant woman from Valvori near Monte Cassino in the south of Italy. My grandfather left her after fathering three young girls very quickly so she’d led a difficult and complicated life. She’d run a cafe in the Gorbals in Glasgow so she spoke this coarse Italian/Scottish. She liked paddling on the beach, so most mornings I’d walk with her on the way to school, and listen to her talk in a very superstitious, Catholic way about men and women and how the world worked: men are weak, women are strong; women survive, men are helpless and stupid."
Anthony Minghella: Turly, Madly Deeply, My First Film: Twenty Celebrated Film Directors Talk About Their First Film, edited by Stephen Lowenstein, page 214, Pantheon Books, 2000.

The Review:

Overall rating = 5 hands
Rickmaniac rating = 7 hands

Leonora, the protagonist of the beautifully written A Little Like Drowning, tells the story of two marriages:

  • The marriage of Catalina, and her ill-fated affair with the village teacher, who could sing
  • Young Leonora’s own marriage to the very smooth Alfredo Mare, who also sings.

Old Leonora, by the seaside with her English grandchildren, tells Catalina’s story as a tale at the beginning of the play. Leonora’s own story, however, is a series of flashbacks to Italy during the period between the two World Wars. Peggy Ashcroft captures perfectly the mood of a woman’s story told by an older woman, the way my elderly aunts used to tell stories "men could never understand".

The sea is a constant presence in these two tales, beginning with the sound of waves as background to the story of Catalina, through crucial points in the marriage of Leonora and Alfredo, and even with Alfredo’s own name serving as a pun for al freddo mare -- "to the cold sea". Because for Leonora, loving Alfredo is a little like drowning.

Rickman fans will absolutely love the way he speaks with an Italian accent. He even gets to swear and sing Puccini (not simultaneously!) in Italian.

This is, by far, the sexiest audio tape I’ve ever listened to in my life. I guess I wasn’t bored of sex after all *

Reviewed by Fausta, 29 July, 1999.
The Rickmaniac rating scale of 5 hands was not enough for this one


Rickman fans should not attempt to cook, drive, or operate heavy machinery while listening to this tape.

Using this tape in conjunction with some of the photographs posted in Claire’s website might exacerbate reactions in susceptible subjects.

Persons prone to hormonal surges, high blood pressure, or tachycardia should consult their physician prior to listening to this tape.

("The Voice" photo from the Dogma poster)