Tumanbay (radio drama)

From Podpedia
File:Tumanbay podcast cover1.jpg
GenreHistorical period drama
Written byJohn Dryden
Directed byJohn Dryden
Length45 minutes
  • Emma Hearn
  • Nadir Khan
  • John Dryden
Theme music composed bySacha Puttnam
Audio formatMP3
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes18
Original release2015 – present
ProviderBBC Radio
Panoply Media

Tumanbay is a multi-character epic of political intrigue set in the fictional city of Tumanbay, heart of a vast empire, which is threatened by a rebellion and a mysterious force devouring the empire from within. The setting is inspired by the Mamluk slave dynasty of Egypt.[1]

Broadcast[edit | edit source]

The first episode of Tumanbay was broadcast in the UK on BBC Four Radio in December 2015. A second season of 8 episodes was broadcast between April and June, 2017. In September 2017, in a deal between BBC and Panoply Media, the first two seasons were broadcast to international audiences on the Panoply network.[2]

Characters[3][edit | edit source]

Gregor[edit | edit source]

Gregor (Rufus Wright) is Head of the Palace Guard and one of Sultan Al-Ghuri’s inner circle of advisors. His duties include espionage and counterespionage, and his methods are at once subtle and brutal. Gregor’s childhood was spent as a slave in the far reaches of the Empire alongside his brother, Qulan, now Commander of the Imperial Army. The brothers were bought out of poverty by their master and trained in the arts of diplomacy and combat. At court, Gregor must contend with the rivalry of his nemesis, the Vizier Cadali, and with the vicissitudes of serving a cruel and fickle Sultan.

Heaven[edit | edit source]

Heaven (Olivia Popica) is 14. Her desire to see the world and take her place in it is tempered only by her reluctance to be married off in order to do so. As spring in Tumanbay is short-lived and soon gives way to the heat of summer, so must its children grow up fast. Heaven leaves behind the land of her childhood and sets sail with her mother Ila for Tumanbay, where the girl’s father Ibn, a successful slave trader, is preparing her wedding. But fate, it seems, has other plans for Heaven, plans that will test her ability to survive and force her to become a woman.

Cadali[edit | edit source]

Cadali (Matthew Marsh) is the Vizier and the Sultan’s chief advisor. Cadali’s loyalties are to himself, to his Sultan and to Tumanbay, in that order. He possesses a finely-tuned sense of self-preservation coupled with a cunning and strategic mind. He trusts no one and demonstrates the ability to appear about the palace wherever he is least expected or wanted. Cadali also has an overwhelming fondness for sugar plums.

Sultan Al-Ghuri[edit | edit source]

Sultan Al-Ghuri (Raad Rawi) came to power following the untimely death of his brother, the previous Sultan. Having taken his brother’s first wife Shajah as his own, he dotes on her son, his nephew Madu. Al-Ghuri’s other foible is his love of perfume. Yet he wears the burden of office heavily, obsessively aware of the ever-present threat of assassination and of the fragility of the dynastic line.

Shajar[edit | edit source]

Shajar (Sarah Beck Mather) is Sultan Al-Ghuri’s First Wife, and as such, head of the palace harem. Her son, Madu, is the only issue from her previous marriage to the former Sultan, Al-Ghuri's predecessor and brother. Shajar grew up in poverty and soon learnt to exploit her dazzling beauty in exchange for power and wealth. But Shajar understands that beauty is ephemeral and that she must fight to preserve her position and to safeguard her own future and that of her son.

Sarah[edit | edit source]

Sarah (Nina Yndis) was captured and brought to Tumanbay along with her baby as a slave. The beautiful Sarah arouses admiration and curiosity amongst all who encounter her. Her striking blue eyes and pale skin, along with her enigmatic and sophisticated bearing belie her status as a slave. She is appointed servant to Shajar, the First Wife, following the death of the previous maid.

Head Eunuch[edit | edit source]

The Head Eunuch (John Sessions) is playful, yet ruthless. He has the plum position of deciding what is bought for the palace and what isn’t. He recognises that the slave-girl, Sarah, is something different in Tumanbay.

Shamsi[edit | edit source]

Shamsi (Laure Stockley) is a prostitute who serves the Palace. She beguiles men. Yet she is constantly afraid, fearful of her own fate.

Slave[edit | edit source]

Like many sold into servitude in Tumanbay, the man known only as Slave (Akin Gazi) comes from noble origins in a country swallowed up by the empire in its hunger for land and resources. An involuntary companion of Heaven, he resents having to play bodyguard to a girl he sees as pampered and privileged.

Boy[edit | edit source]

Boy (Darwin Brokenbro) is in the service of Rajik and Pamira in the moving town. The Boy has the ability to command dogs and other animals. He is fascinated by Heaven’s beauty and driven by the desire for family.

Wolf[edit | edit source]

Wolf (Alexander Siddig) is the leader of a proudly independent band of warrior-horsemen from the austere mountains sworn to the service of Qulan. Wolf’s appetite for love matches his lust for war.

Daniel[edit | edit source]

Daniel (Gareth Kennerley) an enslaved soldier. Daniel is a slave sold to the palace. The sultan decides to put Madu (Danny Ashok) into the army to help him “learn to be a man.” He arrives thinking he’s going to be an officer in charge of things; that it’s going to be more of the privileged lifestyle, but instead he is handed down to the slave infantry soldiers to “toughen him up.” It’s a total shock to his system. He really struggles to survive. He is saved by Daniel, and their relationship becomes a strong bond of friendship and then eventually love.[4]

Episodes[edit | edit source]

Season 1 (2015-2016)[edit | edit source]

# Title Length (minutes:seconds) Original release date
1"A Head Start"44:39December 2, 2015 (2015-12-02)
Gregor (Rufus Wright) - Master of the Palace Guard - is charged by Sultan Al-Ghuri (Raad Rawi) with the task of rooting out an insurgence and crushing it.
2"Ship of the Dead"44:39December 9, 2015 (2015-12-09)
Another threat is making its way by sea. As slave merchant Ibn (Nabil Elouahabi) awaits for his family to arrive in Tumanbay, sickness has broken out on the ship carrying them.
3"Coming of Age"44:48December 16, 2015 (2015-12-16)
Fourteen year old daughter (Olivia Popica) of slave merchant Ibn (Nabil Elouahabi) is adrift at sea in a small boat and captive to an escaped slave (Akin Gazi). Now she must depend on her slave captor for her survival. Madu (Danny Ashok), the spoilt nephew of the Sultan, also has to grow up quickly as he swaps palace life for hard graft in the army.
4"Hidden Knowledge"44:33December 23, 2015 (2015-12-23)
Shajar, the Sultan's chief wife (Sarah Beck Mather), plots her son Madu's (Danny Ashok) succession to the throne. While Gregor, Master of the Palace Guard, is determined to discover what it is she has taken from the aged Hafiz and is having repaired in the workshop of a pair of artisans in the city. Marching with the army out to the provinces, Madu's slave find solace with an unlikely companion.
5"Strangle Hold"44:36December 30, 2015 (2015-12-30)
General Qulan (Christopher Fulford) finds the Provincial Governors less than enthusiastic as he arrives to gather the armies to fight rebel "queen" Maya. In Tumanbay, Gregor is under pressure to find the spies but his investigations keep leading him back to Shajar the Sultan's chief wife (Sarah Beck Mather) and a reliquary she has secreted away.
6"In the Beginning"44:33January 6, 2016 (2016-01-06)
Tumanbay is in chaos after the murder of a highly placed individual. Heaven and her slave companion find themselves prisoners of a nomadic tribe in the desert. Having failed in his duty of keeping the Palace safe, Gregor attempts to unlock the secret of the missing reliquary and find out why it is worth killing for.
7"A Tale of Two Cities"44:45January 13, 2016 (2016-01-13)
Sultan Al-Ghuri (Raad Rawi) dreams of victory against rebellious provincial leader Maya. Meanwhile Gregor (Rufus Wright) is in pursuit of missing slave-girl Sarah (Nina Yndis) and must venture into the catacombs beneath the city, haven to those who wish to escape the brutality of the City above.
8"The Purge"44:36January 20, 2016 (2016-01-20)
Sultan (Raad Rawi) is increasingly insecure and fearful for his life, so begins a purge of the Palace. Slave trader Ibn (Nabil Elouahabi), is reunited with the daughter he thought he had lost. And her slave companion finally comes face to face with Gregor (Rufus Wright), the man who stole his kingdom.
9"Jaws of Victory"44:33January 27, 2016 (2016-01-27)
A trade delegation from across the ocean, brings to Tumanbay the very latest in war merchandise. Convinced of victory by the words of the prophet child, the Sultan (Raad Rawi) is now ready to march out with his armies and destroy rebellious provincial leader Maya. His nephew Madu (Danny Ashok) has only one desire - to escape the city with his army comrade and lover Daniel (Gareth Kennerley). But Daniel is not everything he seems.
10"Sword of Faith"44:29February 3, 2016 (2016-02-03)
As the people of Tumanbay await news of the Sultan's (Raad Rawi) great victory, Gregor (Rufus Wright) the heartless player discovers he has a heart and that he has been played.

Season 2 (2017)[edit | edit source]

Season 2 premiered online in the United Kingdom on April 25, 2017. It is to be released to other markets by the end of May 2017.[5]

# Title Length (minutes:seconds) Original release date
1"The Last Boat"45:10April 25, 2017 (2017-04-25)[6]
Tumanbay, the wealthiest city on earth, has been conquered by a brutal religious regime, the followers of Maya. Responsible for rooting out heretics is Barakat (Hiran Abeysekera), a ruthless and uncompromising zealot. As refugees scramble to escape the city, Gregor (Rufus Wright), previously Master of the Palace Guard, has sworn an oath to the new rulers and struggles to survive as the new regime sets about dismantling the city of everything of value.
2"The Kill"43:43May 2, 2017 (2017-05-02)[7]
Under the brutal rule of the puritanical followers of Maya, Tumanbay, once the most powerful and wealthy city on earth, has become a place of fear and suspicion. While Gregor attempts to survive the regime by collaborating and demonstrating his loyalty, his niece Manel (Aiysha Hart) is drawn to the rebel cause. Both are playing a deadly game.
3"Rats"45:50May 9, 2017 (2017-05-09)[8]
While betrayals and counter-betrayals dominate Gregor's every waking moment, and the young puppet Sultan, Madu, becomes increasingly reckless in his quest to satisfy his cravings, Gregor's niece Manel is sent by her rebel comrades into the desert on a mission to kill. What she discovers there is a threat even deadlier than Tumanbay's brutal new rulers.
4"Healing the Sick"45:00May 16, 2017 (2017-05-16)[9]
As slave trader Ibn (Nabil Elouahabi), accused of hoarding heretical text, seeks justice from the new regime's religious courts, news arrives of a devastating plague in the swamps outside the city. Undeterred, the all-powerful Inquisitor, Barakat (Hiran Abeysekera), continues his mission to cleanse the city of heretics and he chooses Gregor (Rufus Wright) to assist.
5"Kiss My Fingers"43:45May 23, 2017 (2017-05-23)[10]
Threat of plague from outlying villages and how to deal with it brings the Inquisitor Barakat (Hiran Abeysekera) into conflict with the ailing regent Effendi Red (Sagar Arya). Meanwhile, Manel (Aiysha Hart) - having failed in the task given to her by the rebels - must now prove her commitment to the cause by undertaking a more dangerous mission. One that brings her face to face with a deadly secret at the heart of this fanatical regime.
6"Holy Father"43:43May 30, 2017 (2017-05-30)[11]
Following a series of murders, the Inquisitor Barakat's (Hiran Abeysekera) hold over Tumanbay is complete. Rebel fighter Manel (Aiysha Hart) seeks refuge with co-conspirator Doctor Dorin (Vincent Ebrahim). But can Dorin be trusted and what is "the great project" he is working on with Barakat?
7"Take My Hand"43:53June 6, 2017 (2017-06-06)[12]
Manel (Aiysha Hart) and Heaven (Tanya Ravljen) have escaped the city and go to the swamps in search of Manel's enslaved father, General Qulan (Christopher Fulford). Back in Tumanbay, there's someone new in charge and the puppet Sultan Madu (Danny Ashok) has a secret rendezvous with his old love, Daniel (Gareth Kennerley).
8"We Are Three"43:43June 13, 2017 (2017-06-13)[13]
The blood-soaked finale to the second series. The rebel army, under General Qulan (Christopher Fulford) prepares to march on the city where Gregor (Rufus Wright) struggles to decide where his loyalties lie and is faced with a terrible truth about his past.

Reception[edit | edit source]

The first season of the podcast was well received. June Thomas in Slate called it the "Best podcast of the year".[14] Because of its medieval setting, large cast of characters, and themes of political intrigue, the podcast was often compared with the HBO TV series, Game of Thrones.[15][16]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Johnston, Rich (30 November 2015). "Radio Drama Director John Dryden On The BBC's Epic Tumanbay – Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  2. Washenko, Anna (8 September 2017). "Panoply debuts six shows in its fall lineup, including its first scripted comedy". rainnews.com. RAIN News. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  3. "Tumanbay: Characters to watch out for". BBC Radio 4. BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  4. Thomas, June (28 January 2016). "The Creator of Tumanbay on the Radio Drama's Same-Sex Kiss". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  5. John Dryden‏ [@johnscottdryden] (4 May 2017). "Will be avail in the US end of May" (Tweet). Retrieved 10 January 2018 – via Twitter. 
  6. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, The Last Boat". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  7. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, The Kill". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  8. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, Rats". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  9. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, Healing the Sick". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  10. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, Kiss My Fingers". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  11. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, Holy Father". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  12. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, Take My Hand". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  13. "BBC Radio 4 - Tumanbay, Series 2, We Are Three". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  14. Thomas, June (28 January 2016). "A Conversation with the Creator of Tumanbay, the Best Podcast of the Year". Slate. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  15. Hughes, Sarah (21 December 2015). "Tumanbay: can a Game of Thrones-style epic series work on radio?". TheGuardian.com. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  16. Crawford, David (2 December 2015). "Is Radio 4 hoping for a Serial effect with new drama Tumanbay?". Radio Times. Retrieved 10 January 2018.