William Thackeray

Vanity Fair
  • Vanity Fair

    • William Makepeace Thackeray

    • Al Murray (Read by)

    • Full Cast (Read by)

    Al Murray stars in this anarchic BBC radio reboot of Thackeray’s groundbreaking satirical novel

    Comedian Al Murray plays his great-great-great grandfather William Makepeace Thackeray as the unreliable narrator in this radical makeover of his ancestor’s celebrated satire on class, sex, money, hypocrisy and snobbery in nineteenth-century England.

    As the curtain rises on our ‘story without a hero’, moneyless Becky Sharp leaves school with her upper-class best friend Amelia Sedley. Clever, cunning and ambitious, Becky is determined to make her way in Regency society – and she’ll trample on anyone who gets in her way.

    When her plan to marry Amelia’s brother Jos falls through, she snares the aristocratic Rawdon Crawley – but her hopes of riches are dashed when the couple are disinherited by his wealthy aunt. Meanwhile, Amelia marries the dashing George Osborne, breaking the heart of her devoted admirer, William Dobbin.

    But war is fast approaching, and as Napoleon advances towards Waterloo, where will the winds of destiny blow our players? And will the ever-resourceful Becky succeed in achieving her desires?

    Pacey, contemporary, fresh and funny, this sparkling dramatisation features Ellie White as Becky, Helen O’Hara as Amelia, Blake Ritson as Rawdon, Rupert Hill as George, Thom Tuck as Jos and Graeme Hawley as Dobbin.


    Cast and credits
    Thackeray (narrator)……………………Al Murray
    Becky Sharp……………………Ellie White
    Amelia Sedley……………………Helen O’Hara
    Rawdon Crawley……………………Blake Ritson
    Jos Sedley……………………Thom Tuck
    George Osborne……………………Rupert Hill
    Dobbin……………………Graeme Hawley
    Mrs Sedley/Mrs Bute/Aunty Crawley/Jane/Rawdon Junior……………………Emma Gregory
    Mr Sedley/Sir Pitt/Lord Steyne……………………Jonathan Keeble
    Mr Osborne/Bute/General Tufto……………………Malcolm Raeburn
    Pitt……………………Lloyd Peters
    Lady Bareacres/Miss Briggs/George Junior……………………Fiona Clarke

    Written by William Makepeace Thackeray
    Dramatised by Jim Poyser, with additional material by Al Murray
    A BBC Radio Drama North production
    Produced and directed by Gary Brown

    First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 26 May-9 June 2019

William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta in 1811, but sent to England at the age of six. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1833 he settled in Paris, after a major financial loss, and tried a career as a painter. It was here he met nineteen-year-old Isabella Shawe, upon whom he based many of his virtuous but weak heroines, and whom he married in 1836. A year later they settled in London, where Thackeray turned seriously to journalism. His writing for periodicals included The Yellowplush Correspondence, which appeared first in Fraser's Magazine and then in 1841 in book form. Around this time personal and domestic pressures caused the already helpless Isabella to subside into a state of complete and permanent mental collapse and the subsequent breakdown of the marriage formed a central part of Thackeray's consciousness. His early work centred around rogues and villains, most famously in The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844; revised as The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. in 1856), and in his masterpiece, Vanity Fair, which appeared in monthly parts in 1847-8 and which most clearly reveals his socially satirical edge. The Book of Snobs, which originally appeared as a series in Punch, also attacks Victorian society with vicious wit. Thackeray's later novels include The History of Pendennis, (1848-50); The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852); The Newcomes (1853-5); The Virginians, (1857-9), which is a sequel to Henry Esmond; and The Adventures of Philip (1860-62). He also wrote a series of lectures, The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century (1853), and numerous reviews, articles and sketches, usually in the comic vein. From 1860 to 1862 he also edited the Cornhill magazine. Thackeray died suddenly on Christmas Eve, 1863.