Audio Drama Wiki

Up Against It is a radio play by John Fletcher, dramatizing an unfinished screenplay by Joe Orton. It was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 21 September 1997[1]

A recording is available at the British Library Sound Archive.


A proposed third film for the Beatles.

Adrift in a world run by monstrous tweed-suited women in thick leather brogues, three men decide to start a worldwide revolution to overthrow the matriarchy. By turns funny, moving, sexual and surreal, the play celebrates the ferocity of Orton's farce, the music of the Beatles, and the Summer of love.


  • John Lennon - Joseph Fiennes
  • George Harrison - Damon Albarn
  • Narrator - Leo McKern


  • Sylvia Syms
  • Prunella Scales
  • Douglas Hodge
  • Louise Lombard
  • Jacinta Mulcahy
  • John Gielgud
  • Joe Dowling

Directed by John Adams

Critical Reception[]

"And more creative chaos in Up Against It (Radio 3, Sunday), a romping realisation of Joe Orton's unfinished script for a Beatles film. A Radio 4 feature a year or so ago offered fragmentary reconstructions which made it sound misogynistic and self-consciously rebellious and wacky. It turned out to be all that, as well as suffering from a corny sexual mysticism which probably owed as much to adapter John Fletcher as to Orton. But in a finely acted production, it was often hilarious - artistic archaeology at its finest."[2]

Comments from John Fletcher[]

"In the spring of 1967 the Beatles were wanting to make a third film. Paul MacCartney commissioned the playwright Joe Orton to write the screenplay.

He did this in two weeks. To begin with the script did not fit what the Beatles wanted. (Joe Orton took a very cold, cruel view of humanity, the Beatles were full of optimism and just revving up for 1967's "Summer of Love" and "Sargeant Peppers Lonely Heart's Club Band.") But a few months later attitudes seemed to change.

Richard Lester's chauffeur took his Rolls round to Joe Orton's flat to pick him up. He found a bloody mess. Orton had been murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell.

I admit to being far closer to the world of the Beatles than that of Joe Orton. But that is not the only reason why it is much warmer than the Orton version. I wished to recreate what the film would have been like if it had ever been made. The Beatles in 1967 were at the height of their creative powers, the most influential artists on the planet. They would never have made the film had it not expressed their love and vitality and humour.

I tried to incorporate a musical background consistent with the Beatles music of '67. The director was not interested. He was far more interested in Orton than in The Beatles.

Joe Fiennes played the John Lennon character, Blur's Damon Albarn played George Harrison (with a Cockney accent!), John Gielgud played the shortest starring part in radio history, and Leo McKern as the Narrator provided the link back to the Beatles' films and to that great inspiration for all 60's British art and comedy, Spike Milligan. (McKern appeared in Milligan's "Running Jumping Standing Still Film.""


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