The Saturday Play: The Small Back Room

Basic Info

Genre: Drama (Radio)

Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4

Broadcast dates: Saturday, 26 April from 2:30pm – 3:30pm

Production Co: Pacificus Productions/ BBC Radio

Cast: Damian Lewis (Sammy), Paul Jesson (Holland/Brine), Dominic Rowan (Tilly), Nice Rowe (Waring), Rebecca Saire (Sue), Christopher Benjamin (Mair), Will Keen ( Stuart), Stuart Laing (Joe), and Sean Baker (Pinker/Strang)

Crew: Clive Brill (Producer), Richard Stevens (Writer)


Made into a Powell and Pressburger film in 1948 from an equally popular book by Nigel Balchin – this is a tense wartime thriller about the back room boys and their sterling war efforts.

Sammy Rice is called to try and solve the mystery of a series of unexploded bombs that are being scattered after German bombing raids. They lay dormant and then inexplicably explode on human contact. Will Sammy be able to stop the havoc they are causing among civilians?


The Small Back Room is a tense tale of a scientist caught up in the Second World War effort while struggling to cope with his drink problem and office bureaucracy. Made into a Powell and Pressburger film in 1948, this was an enormously popular book in the Forties and Nigel Balchin was considered to be one of the best popular fiction writers of his day.

Damian Lewis stars as British scientist Sammy Rice, who takes great pleasure in his work – testing inventions considered potentially useful for the War. But then he is asked to unravel the mystery of hundreds of German bombs found strewn across Britain which lay dormant but inexplicably explode when they come into human contact.

The cast also features Paul Jesson as Holland/Brine; Dominic Rowan as Tilly; Nice Rowe as Waring; Rebecca Saire as Sue; Christopher Benjamin as Mair; Will Keen as Stuart; Stuart Laing as Joe; and Sean Baker as Pinker/Strang.

Source: BBC


Sammy Rice is a British back-room boy. He and a couple of other scientists work tightly together to test inventions that might prove useful in the war against Germany. When Rice is asked to help another department investigate the workings of a new rash of enemy bombs he’s happy to assist, but his greatest problem turns out to be the battle with inter-departmental bureaucracy rather than scary Nazi technology. Damian Lewis as Sammy explodes with invective ire at his superiors and you can feel his internal combustion hitting danger level when he is finally faced with a real bomb to defuse. This thriller is as taut as a stretched wire – and one that hasn’t been earthed, at that.

RT reviewer – Jane Anderson

Source: Radio Times