Eileen Atkins to star in radio drama about novelist Updike

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Eileen Atkins is to star in a BBC drama that explores the relationship between US author John Updike and his mother.

Mrs Updike was written by Margaret Heffernan and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 next month.

Heffernan told The Stage she had been inspired to pen the play after reading obituaries about Updike – who is best known for his Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom series – following his death in 2009.

One of these referred to a question Updike’s mother had been asked by a journalist, who wanted to know whether she had felt proud of her son winning a particular award. His mother is reported to have replied: “I’d rather it had been me.”

Heffernan said: “That bombshell stuck in my head and I thought, someone should write a play about that relationship. Time passed and no one did, but the idea still stuck in my head. So in the end I wrote it.”

The writer revealed she travelled to Massachusetts for her research into the play, and interviewed Updike’s first wife and three of his four children.

“They confirmed the story in the obituary and generously shared their reminiscences of their grandmother and their father. While they are not in the play, it contains much of what they told me about this fantastic chronicler of American life,” she said.

Atkins will play Updike’s mother, with Updike played in the drama by Charles Edwards. Other cast members include Joseph May, Stuart Milligan and Lorelei King.

The drama will go out on February 10 at 8.30pm.