Thursday, 17 May 2012

Radio Reviews: 18 May

Despite the appalling hype, actor Richard Wilson’s new comedy is highly amusing

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWOccasionally, I'll hear a trailer so bad that it puts me off listening to the programme it's advertising. This nearly happened with Believe It, Richard Wilson's new comedy series for BBC Radio 4. The show's set-up is that Wilson tells tales, supposedly from his life, which turn out to be wild fantasies, hence the title, an obvious nod to Victor Meldrew's catchphrase.

Each tale might contain a couple of basic truths about Wilson – indeed, the fi rst of the series made much of his well-documented loyalty to Manchester United – but it comes from the fertile mind of writer Jon Canter. However, the trailer was so heavy-handed in getting across the fact that the show wasn't an accurate depiction of Wilson's life that I feared the worst. But I gave it a chance, and am delighted that I did.

The cast is stellar. David Tennant plays the young Wilson, with John Sessions, Arabella Weir, Jane Slavin and the great, underrated Lewis Macleod also on hand. The script is joyous and the production perfect. For example, after Wilson's Great-Uncle Hamish gets the lad drunk, makes him divulge his greatest secret (that he has lost one of the gloves given to him by mad Auntie Sheila) and then drops down dead, Wilson begins to associate drink with truth and mortality. 'What could be more scary?' he muses, at which we hear Side Saddle by Russ Conway. The music is an integral part of the following scene, but the idea of being frightened stiff of Conway, made me burst out laughing.

Perhaps understandably, alcohol's negative associations lead to Wilson the character becoming teetotal, but somehow ending up as George Best's drinking partner, trawling the pubs of Manchester with various Miss Worlds, on nothing stronger than elderflower cordial. The choice of drink is an affectation picked up from Lord Olivier, a brilliant excuse to let Sessions do his always-enjoyable Larry.

Believe It is a clever subversion of the showbiz memoir form. The early years of an autobiography are often the dullest – a result of what observers of the genre call the 'hurry up and get famous' factor. Canter fills Wilson's early life with seductive lies. This is a funny, intelligent programme that deserves better trailers – the sort that actually sell the programme.

Believe It is on BBC Radio 4, Wednesdays at 11.30am.




Radio 2 presenters Sir Terry Wogan, Bob Harris, Ken Bruce and Johnnie Walker are among the judges for the Oldie Composers competition in aid of Barnardo's. The four top songs submitted were recorded last month, and will soon be released as downloads, with the most downloaded being the winner.

Follow Louis on Twitter: @LadyWireless or email him at:

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