A love story told at the border between memory and fiction, trust and betrayal, East and West. Starring Damian Lewis, Bill Paterson, Lisa Dillon, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Andrew Sachs and David de Keyser
1957. Failing artist Desmond McElwee is forced to take a commission from a man he loathes, who comes to the sitting demanding a portrait of a woman he can't produce, in a dress he can only describe, at an event which never happened.
The man is Gene Pew, a Princeton academic, who in January that year had met an intriguing young Hungarian woman hanging about in a Viennese art gallery trying to keep warm. She tells him she's an actress from a dissident family who's fled to Austria to escape the Russian invasion of her country. Months later, they're married.
Then, the woman's memory is erased in a hit-and-run car accident, and Gene must help her reconstruct her past from the little he knows. But Hungary is once more a closed society, and all he knows about her is what she's told him.
So who is Mrs Pew? Exactly when - and why - did she really leave Hungary? Is her loss of memory permanent? Or convenient? And, if her past life has been forgotten, does her past really matter at all?
Even a failing artist wants a portrait to truthfully reflect its subject. But the truth about Mrs Pew is a different matter for Desmond, for Gene, and for Mrs Pew herself.
Damian Lewis stars as Gene, Bill Paterson as Desmond and Lisa Dillon as Mrs Pew, with Julian Rhind-Tutt, Andrew Sachs, David de Keyser, Carolyn Pickles, Eva Magyar, Kenneth Collard, Christine Kavanagh, Emma Noakes and Joseph Kloska.
a play by David Edgar
BBC Radio 4 Saturday 20 January 2.30pm