Observations: No need to touch that dial

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The Independent Culture

Blame the cold, winter nights and a need for credit-crunch friendly entertainment, but radio dramas have been enjoying a renaissance of late. The opportunities for tuning into them, though, have been limited to catching up with Radio 4 on the wireless. Now the production company Made in Manchester (MIM) have teamed up with The Independent on Independent Drama, a series of plays which can be downloaded and listened to online or on your iPod for free. Last month, a dramatisation of the final thoughts of persecuted code-breaker Alan Turing premiered online. It's followed today by Death in Genoa, Thomas Wright's fictionalised account of Oscar Wilde's Italian escapades in the late 1890s, following his release from jail. "It's the period when he was unproductive. He just gave up," says Simon Callow, who plays Wilde. "He had no money and he'd lost his subject. He wrote about society and he was now an exile from it. He was completely captivated by the idea of just having a lovely, sexy time with boys and drinking a lot. His native hedonism took over." Wilde's 18-year-old Italian lover/ rent boy is played by Samuel Barnett (The History Boys) while Joyce Branagh (sister of Kenneth) directs.

Circumventing the BBC's lengthy commissioning process gives MIM's projects an added freshness, says Callow. "What is especially exciting is the speed with which they can produce plays and get them on the air, where whole new audiences can experience them".

Death in Genoa is downloadable from today at www.independent.co.uk/drama

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