It's the 5th anniversary of David Bowie's death, and the BBC has been running all kinds of tributes to him. The most interesting is Low, written by veteran TV writer-direct Sean Grundy and directed by the prolific Dirk Maggs. The radio play – or audio podcast for you millennials – retells the story of Bowie making his legendary and influential 1977 album Low.
The play is a darkly comic snapshot of 1976 when David Bowie was reeling from cocaine and booze, unable to work on his new album due to paranoia, anxiety and his crumbling marriage as a raging Angie Bowie (Helene Maksoud) hunts for him in a custody fight over their young son Zowie (who would eventually grow up to become acclaimed filmmaker Duncan Jones). Believing staying in Los Angeles will drive him insane, David ups and takes his entourage to Berlin to work on the album. This entourage included his assistant and lover Coco Schwab (Laurel Kefkow), little Zowie (James Morley) and James Osterberg aka Iggy Pop (Kerry Shale). Life in Berlin proves no less ramshackle and chaotic as David scrambles from Angie and has to reckon with his troubled past.
Fans of David Bowie and his life will be familiar with the details that unfurl in the drama: Bowie's fear that he might become mentally ill and committed like his brother was, his bisexuality, his problems with drugs, his clashes with his record company, his collaboration with Brian Eno (Wilf Scolding), his crumbling marriage with Angie, his close relationship with Coco, his friendship with Iggy, the oversight of producer Tony Visconti (Martin T. Sherman), the fights that may or may not have taken place inside and outside the studio. Everything plays as farce.
Director Dirk Maggs previously produced radio drama versions of The Death of Superman, Superman: Doomsday & Beyond, William Gibson's original screenplay of Alien 3, Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Neverwhere (perhaps the best version of the story in any medium), Sandman. Directing a piece of meta pop culture as audio drama is his specialty, and Low is possibly his most surreal production yet.
Low is streaming on the BBC website for the next 4 weeks.