When Lewis Luby (Jeremy Irons) comes to, late at night in an Italian hospital, he finds himself lying under the monstrous big toe of God. Surely there has been some mistake: Luby, who has never for one moment believed in the immortality of the soul, cannot possibly be in heaven!
John Mortimer had the idea for Mr Luby's Fear of Heaven when he first visited the Santa Maria della Scala hospital in Siena and saw patients lying in beds under ceilings decorated with 15th-Century frescoes depicting Heaven and Hell. The play was first produced for BBC Radio 3 in 1976, with John Gielgud in the title role. Later that year it was presented on stage as part of a double bill 'Heaven and Hell', with Denholm Elliot as Luby.
This BBC Radio 4 'Afternoon Play' production, starring Jeremy Irons as the protagonist, was first broadcast 31 December 2008 and repeated 15 February 2011. Stephen Critchlow, Marsha Fitzalan, Chris Pavlo, Donnla Hughes, Dan Starkey and Flaminia Cinque also feature amongst the cast.