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BBC Radio
Posted on Sunday 26 May 2013 at 8:42 am

Rachael's Week in BBC Radio Vol. 18

Listened to this week highlights include a couple of random radio plays, Only a Matter of Time and Do You Like Banana, Comrade?
Next week I'm most looking forward to more in the BBC Cambridge Spies run, several dramatizations, and a couple of political plays within the usual running drama programs.

I use a program called Radio Downloader to download hours of stuff every day (I can't recommend RD enough) and will possibly never listen to a great deal of it. I often listen to things for the first time months after they air. Because of that, I do two things in these BBC Radio posts.

(1) Listened - I'll discuss all the shows I listened to this past week. Some of these may be newly aired things but many may have aired months ago or, if they're things I sought out to buy, might not have aired for years. I will include links to the BBC website for everything and to AudioGo for anything available for purchase. AudioGo is the official site for BBC Radio and is almost always cheaper than iTunes, Amazon download, etc. If you don't already have an account there and want to enter my email (brattyjedi at gmail dot com) as the recommender the first time you buy something, I can get points good towards free downloads :) If something isn't available for purchase, you don't have it downloaded, and based on my comments on it you'd really like to listen to it, let me know and I might be able to help.

(2) Downloading - This will be kind of a look ahead to what I've set up to be downloaded in the upcoming week with thoughts on why I selected it.

Listened to 19 to 25 May (mostly in order of preference, best to worst):
Alan Plater - Only a Matter of Time
This was an absolutely fantastic two-man play. It is about a London businessman in the 1840s going to the Welsh countryside and trying to explain to a farmer about the coming of the train and the creation of universal train time this will require. The businessman firmly believes in the idea of "progress" represented by the train and clock while the farmer can't see how any of this is a good idea. Their arguments and complete failure to understand the other's world view are brilliant.

Do You Like Banana, Comrade? (Afternoon Drama)
This won the 2009 Richard Imison Award for best original script by a writer new to radio, perhaps made more impressive because English is not the playwright's first language. The play is a darkly comedic look at life in a country behind the Iron Curtain (Romania, specifically) told through the eyes of a clueless child / young man and I very much enjoyed it.

A Doll's House (Drama on 3)
I absolutely love this play as a general rule. Ibsen is a brilliant playwright and A Doll's House is a wonderful example of his genius. This particular version of A Doll's House is not a straight-forward one. The original deals with issues of gender roles in a late nineteenth-century middle class English home more than anything else. Much like people change the costumes and settings to place Shakespeare in a different era (e.g. I've seen a fantastic version of Much Ado set among WWI fighter pilots and a terrible version of Othello as post-apartheid South Africa), this version added dialogue to make it set in British Imperial India and add in issues of racism and colonialism to the gender roles. It was an interesting change and I enjoyed it, but I would only recommend this radio play to people already familiar with the original. If you don't already know A Doll's House, you should definitely go with reading the script or some other more straight-forward production to grapple with the issues of the original first.

Thrilling Stories of the Railway
These five short mystery stories were read by Benedict Cumberbatch and were a mixed bag. The detective here, Thorpe Hazell, was created by Victor Lorenzo Whitechurch as a challenge to Sherlock Holmes. Hazell is a meticulously clean-living man, exceedingly polite, and really only interested in railways and only working on crimes involving them in some way. The stories originally appeared in The Strand magazine (as did Holmes) among others, and are suppose to be more realistic than the Holmes stories. Unfortunately, realism also means boring at times. The cases often revolve around mechanical contraptions and this results in drawn-out and tedious descriptions of the devices. There are also a couple that are very obvious. The last, The Affair of the Birmingham Bank, was the best, I thought, as it was unusual for a mystery and dealt with out-and-out theft and more normal underhanded business practices and dirty dealing and blended them in an interesting way.

This Happy Breed
This Noel Coward play has never been one of my favorites. I want to like it but I find it annoying. It is about the trial and tribulations of an English family between the wars. This version cuts out a few subplots and tightens the dialogue some, and that made it better in my opinion. Also, the lead character is very well performed here by John Moffat. This is the best version of This Happy Breed I've encountered and I did enjoy it, but I'm still just not that bullish on the play.

Various Episodes of Panel Shows
It's Your Round: This was a new panel show for me, despite the actual episodes being repeats and the show not making new episodes, I think. I listened to episodes five and six of the first series. Episode five was OK but didn't blow me away. There were some fun rounds (Cockey slang charades) and some really lame ones (imagine your funeral). Episode six was better overall. Episode six was better. I'd be willing to check out more of this show, I think, but don't feel a great drive to do so at the moment.
Past episodes of It's Your Round at AudioGo

Heresy: Heresy is one of my regular panel shows but some days I'm not sure why. I often find it rather blah. I listened to the two new episodes this week, one and two of series nine and a few back episodes from series seven. From the new ones, episode one was just kind of flat and the way I usually feel about the show. Episode two, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. I don't know what made it better but I loved this episode quite a lot.

Downloading 26 May to 1 June:
Poirot - Peril at End House
Someday I'll have all of these.

Terry Pratchett - Night Watch
A Discworld dramatization!

Victor Hugo - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Dramatization of the classic novel.

Julie Enfield Investigates - Terminus
One of the many BBC ongoing detective series. This one stars Imelda Staunton.

Cambridge Spies
This one isn't a program. It is a link to the Radio 4 Blog on the series of programs the BBC is running right now on the Cold War spy ring that has come to be known as The Cambridge Five. Here you can find a summary of the true story and links to more information as well as a complete list of the radio programs airing in connection with it. I'm grabbing all the plays, beginning with Alan Bennett's An Englishman Abroad and Julian Mitchell's Another Country that I mentioned last week and continuing on with the three listed below, and skipping the documentaries and readings, but you can find them all here if you want.

After the Break (Cambridge Spies)
See above. Play about life for one of the spies after his escape to Russia.

Blunt Speaking (Cambridge Spies)
See above. This one is an attempt to show what one of the spies might have been thinking on the day he was revealed. The BBC's description on the programme page makes it sound like more of a reading, but the press release at the media center makes it sound like a radio play. Oh, BBC. Why can't you put all the relevant information in one place instead of making me hunt in three or four locations?

The Iron Curtain Call (Cambridge Spies)
See above. A musical about the spy ring as told by the Cambridge Footlights.

Running Dramas
BBC Radio has several weekly or daily programs that do various original radio plays or dramatizations. The main ones are Afternoon Drama, Friday Drama, Saturday Drama, Drama on 3, BBC Cymru Wales Drama, BBC World Drama, 15-Minute Drama, Classic Serial, and The Wire. This week I'm most looking forward to an Afternoon Drama about Kenya's independence in the 1960s, the Saturday Drama - The Letter of Last Resort - about the Prime Minister's instructions to the commanders of nuclear subs in case of war, and the Drama on 3's adaptation of L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between, which was apparently Richard Griffith's last radio performance before he died earlier this year.

Standing Panel Show Subscriptions
Whatever episodes of the following panel shows happen to air in any given week are always on my download list: Act Your Age, Heresy, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, I've Never Seen Star Wars, Just a Minute, The Museum of Curiosity, The News Quiz, The Unbelievable Truth, Dilemma,Wordaholics, and The Guessing Game .

Anything good y'all listened to recently or looking forward to next week?


failte_aoife at 7:25 am on 27 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
This week seems to have been a week of 'Comedy meets educational' for me. There was some more The Infinite Monkey Cage, the scienece Show with Brian Cox and Robin Ince. I always find it quite entertaining and their topics are quite interesting. One of the episodes dealt with paranormal phenomens and while it was a sciene-program and so nobody suggested that ghosts were real after all they did go deeper than 'LOL all people who believe are stupid' and also addressed things like why people want to believe these things in the first place.

Then there was the firs episode of 'The Ape that got lucky' which was...OK. I actually found the educational part about evolution quite interesting but most of the jokes fell a bit flat for me.

In Shappi Talk, Shappi Khorsandi talks about various topics that affected her while growing up under 'special' circumstances (her father was a popular Iranian satirist who had to flee the country after the revolution). In the first episode it was Racism and I found it very well done. I find many comedians a bit cringeworthy when they try to discuss serious topics but she manages not to make light of the subject but also not turn it into that 'Have something really serious. Now have a joke. Have something really serious again.' which is also odd. Somehow she finds the right balance.

For next week, well there's another Cadfael-drmatization and I think I also want to give the Camebridge spies a try (I only know about them because there's also a movie about them which stars Rupert Penry-Jones...I am that shallow. But it does sound interesting)

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