For more than two decades, Claire Grove was one of the most imaginative and insightful producers in the BBC’s radio drama department.
Deftly balancing the popular and the serious, she was responsible for bringing Carole Hayman and Lou Wakefield’s delightfully waspish Ladies of Letters, starring Patricia Routledge and Prunella Scales, to BBC Radio 4. Grove initially introduced the comedy as a Woman’s Hour serial in 1997 before going on to direct the first five series of its transfer to the schedules as a standalone programme.
At the other extreme, she oversaw the day-long adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, broadcast in real-time snippets on Bloomsday in 2012, featuring a starry cast that included Stephen Rea, Niamh Cusack and Henry Goodman.
Born in Somerset, Grove trained at Ruse Bruford College. After graduating she worked as an actor in rep and with touring companies, notably in Measure for Measure with Avon Touring Theatre (1978), Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! and DH Lawrence’s The Daughter-in-Law at the Derby Playhouse (1979) and in the Extraordinary Productions premiere of Bryony Lavery’s Missing in 1981.
In 1982, Lavery’s More Female Trouble gave Grove one of her first directing credits at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and London’s Drill Hall. In the mid-1980s she became an associate director at the Derby Playhouse, where her productions included Vince Foxall’s adaptation of Moll Flanders and a revival of Stephen Jeffrey’s Carmen 1936 (both 1987).
As artistic director of the Women’s Theatre Group, she directed Julie Wilkinson’s Pinocchio and Co (1989), Maro Green and Caroline Griffin’s Mortal (1990), Lisa Evans’ Christmas Without Herods (1990) and Lavery’s Her Aching Heart (1991).
In 1990, Grove joined the BBC radio drama department to manage the Young Playwrights’ Festival and went on to champion a host of writers new to the medium, including Lavery, Lenny Henry, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Mike Bartlett, Sebastian Baczkiewicz, Bonnie Greer and Nick Darke.
Notable productions included adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters (1995), Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September (1996), The Good Companions (2002), Vanity Fair (2004), Valley of the Dolls and Oblomov (both 2005), eight hours of classic Raymond Chandler, starring Toby Stephens as Philip Marlowe, and all of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels. Her comedy output included five series with country-and-western parodist Tina C and Charlotte Jones’ Baggage.
Among her many awards were two Sony Golds for Nick Stafford’s A Matter of Sex (1993) and Thembi Mtshali’s A Woman in Waiting (2002), as well as the International Visual Communications Association’s Clarion award for David Cook’s Walter Now, starring Ian McKellen (2008).
In 2000, she spent three months in South Africa training black writers and directors on a trip funded by the Department of International Development.
Claire Grove was born on January 3, 1953. She died from cancer on November 18, aged 60, just weeks before her first book, So You Want to Write Radio Drama (co-written with Stephen Wyatt) was published by Nick Hern Books.