BBC Radio 7, 25 July 2009
Another installment in the series of Maugham adaptations, this tale made ingenious use of the myth of the noble savage encountering the innocent - or, if one wants to put it more succinctly, the Beauty and the Beast story. The beauty in question was Martha Jones (Anna Massey), a fortysomething spinster who spent all her life in the Dutch East Indies working as a missionary with her brother (David Timson). Although convinced of the rightness of her task, her relationship with the locals was non-existent, due in no small part to her schoolmarmish manners, which had the effect of alienating rather than drawing people towards God.
Things changed, however, once she encountered Ginger Ted (Bill Nighy). At the first the two were like chalk and cheese: Martha was convinced that Ted was about to rape her, when the two of them found themselves marooned on a boat. She tried her best to stay awake, but sleep overcame her; when she awoke she found that Ted had nothing more to her other than covering her with a blanket to protect her against the cold.
Time passed; and Martha tried her best to engineer another meeting with Ted, even though he had no particular wish to meet her. However fate once again intervened, as the two were sent up-country to deal with a cholera epidemic. Martha drew on her medical skills, Ted provided the communication; and the two of them accomplished their task successfully. This time romance blossomed: Ted returned a changed man, having forsaken alcohol for good, while Martha had learned to loosen up and show off her culinary skills.
This slight tale of a colonial romance was once again narrated by Dirk Bogarde, who relished the task of telling how Ted had flown in the face of convention by abandoning his traditional garb of a singlet and dirty shorts for a full dress-suit. His experiences proved beyond all doubt that "love is a many-splendoured thing."