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BBC Radio
Posted on Sunday 13 April 2014 at 8:46 am

Rachael's Week in BBC Radio 2014:15

Listened To: Dramatizations of Eugene Onegin and The Glass Bead Game, both of which were good though I enjoyed the former more, and a radio play, The Folly, poking fun at comedy of manners / social farce plays. On the comedy panel front, John Finnemore was on Unbelievable Truth and delightfully wound up David Mitchell at one point and both News Quiz and Just a Minute were pretty good episodes.

Coming Up: A bit light this week, but there's a couple of historical fiction plays that sound good, a play about which I know almost nothing except Roger Allam is in it, and an adaptation of an eighteenth-century stage play.

Listened to 6 to 12 April:

Eugene Onegin
This was a really interesting dramatization of Alexander Pushkin's novel about a young man and a duel. The dramatization was framed and interspersed with a real-life duel in the author's own life, showing the parallels between what he had written earlier in his life and what he lived later. It was a really cool approach, mixing novel dramatization, author mini-biography, and even some literary criticism. I very much enjoyed it.

The Glass Bead Game
This was... interesting. It is a dramatization of Herman Hesse's novel The Glass Bead Game. It was a well done production with Derek Jacobi as the narrator. I really enjoyed the first pat, setting up a possibly dystopic or possible utopic society of non-religious monk-like people who devote their lives to a game that can supposedly account for all human knowledge, and couldn't wait to see where everything went in the second part. Then it just kind of didn't go anywhere in the end. There was some good stuff in the second part, but the ending just didn't amount to much, I thought. I've never read the novel but have heard fantastic things about it. I'll have to give it a go someday and find out if the ending there is better and my disquiet is a problem with the adaptation or what.

The Folly
This is an hour-and-a-half long radio play and I quite enjoyed it. The story is just a basic romantic farce, playing on all the tropes and stock characters, with nothing that wouldn't fit in a comedy of errors, a Victorian drawing room farce or a Moliere play for examples. There's the slightly eccentric father, the young woman with no mother desperate to find a husband, the matronly aunt ordering everyone around, the two suitors competing for the girl, the servants in the background, etc. The spin here is that it is all very self-aware and basically deconstructing what it is doing while doing it. The father sort of writing the play as everything goes and everyone periodically commenting on the action with lines like "We have the dramatis personae in place, tensions and possible sources of conflict have been introduced, time to get the plot moving." or "I'm sorry you have to suffer but that's just your part." (not direct quotes). My favorite was the aunt because they had her as a Mrs. Malaprop and got in some great puns that way. For example, the second suitor, a possible rake character, is an architect. The aunt says something to the father about "Oh, did you have to introduce a rake?" then a bit later says to the architect/rake, "It's so nice to meet an archetype." It took the play a bit long to get really going with the premise so I wasn't really into it for the first 20 minutes or so, but I very much enjoyed it once everything was in place and moving. They also dragged the ending out a bit, but not too bad.

Comedy Panel Shows

Unbelievable Truth 13:1
Loved this episode! Actually, I really liked and enjoyed most of it and LOVED one minute. John Finnemore was a guest and I sent a message to a friend while I was in the middle of listening to the episode that I'll just C&P: "Go here and listen to 13:40 to 14:30. Context: comedian gave a lecture on witches in which everything was a lie except five truths that other comedians were supposed to try to pick out. David Mitchell is providing the wrap-up of what was true that had been missed. Further context: John Finnemore winding up David Mitchell." If the episode is already gone from iPlayer, and you want it, let me know.

News Quiz 83: 9
Susan Calman guest-hosted this week. It was a pretty good episode and she did well, though I missed Sandi Toksvig because I love her so much.

Just a Minute 68:8
A pretty fun episode. There was some rule arguing, which is always great in my opinion, and a great deal of picking on Nicholas Parsons which was hilarious. Also, Graham Norton was on and I always love him.

Downloading 13 to 19 April:


CH Evans - Falling Heads
Radio Play about the real-life events in which an MP spent much of World War I insisting that there were gay men in positions of power in England and the Germans were using them as spies. His accusations of treason due to being gay eventually got him caught up in a libel trial. I'm familiar with these kind of accusations in post-WWII US politics but don't know much about it in this context so I'm curious.

Louis Robinson - Julie and the Prince
A play based on the real-life story of Prince Edward (late 17000s to early 1800s one), his life with his mistress in Canada, and the necessity of his marrying and having a legitimate child to be his elder brother's eventual heir (spoiler: said child is Queen Victoria). ;-)

The Testament of This Day (Friday Drama)
A raido play about a man on two journeys. I don't know. There's not much of a description. But Roger Allam plays the father, so I don't need to know much more :-)

The Recruiting Officer (Drama on 3)
Adaptation of a Restoration-era stage play that fits nicely in the kinds of things The Folly above was riffing off. The plot here is a military officer looking for soldiers and a bride but seems to be more seducing the men into the military and recruiting the woman into marriage. Part of a run of eighteenth-century stuff that Radio 3 and 4 are doing.

Marcy Kahan - Big in Samoa (Aft Drama)
Radio play that sounds like it has a fun premise: a man made a record that went nowehre and went on with his life only to find out years later that he has become a cult favorite. It's got a great cast including Tom Goodman-Hill and Hugh Bonneville.

Daily Multi-Episode Programs Starting This Week

Leo Tolstoy - Resurrection (Classic Serial)
A Tolstoy dramatization. I don't know this novel. How much does anyone really know beyond Anna K. and War and Peace? Wikipedia tells me this one is about the injustice of man-made laws and hypocrisy of organized religion. My inclination is to agree more with the latter than the former as general rules, though the former would be more true in Tolstoy's time, I think. In either case, they're ideas I like to think about and play around with so works for me.

Weekly Multi-Episode Programs Starting This Week

Nothing. How odd.

Comedy Panel Shows
Unbelievable Truth is running a new series. Act Your Age is re-broadcasting an episode from series 2.

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

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