Thursday, 14 June 2012

Radio Reviews: 15 June

The start of many a famous writer’s career, the radio drama needs to be preserved

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWBroadcasters do love to tinker. The Woman's Hour Drama has now become the 15 Minute Drama. It's still part of Woman's Hour. I doubt that it's needless tinkering. There's always a reason. In January, The Afternoon Play became The Afternoon Drama. What's the difference? Well, The Afternoon Play was largely single plays, whereas a strand called The Afternoon Drama can include five-part serials. This leads me to fear for Radio 4's commitment to the single play, a training ground for many great dramatists over the years. As for the 15 Minute Drama, the only reason I can think of for the change is that the network is planning to hive it off at some stage.

The 15 Minute Drama has had a good run lately. Not A Love Story, Shelagh Stephenson's chronicle of a rape trial, was spellbinding, while the second series of Incredible Women, starring the superb Rebecca Front and her brother Jeremy, has provoked a lot of laughter. Each day in the run, Front, R – one of our most versatile comedy actresses – played a remarkable and/or famous female talking about her life to a polite but bemused interviewer played by Front, J.

The mock-documentary element included real experts to provide a contrary view of the subject's grandiose claims. In this series, we've heard Professor Richard Wiseman debunking 'a psychic management consultant' who passes advice from Steve Jobs and Winston Churchill in the afterlife to captains of industry; Professor Robert Winston challenging a scientist who claimed to have isolated the 'perfection gene'; respected lensman David Steen recalling a gun-happy war photographer; and Brian Conley explaining how 'the people's diva' sent him stone deaf.

I was thrilled by the instalment about a writer who has based most of her career on belittling her decent husband, and who expresses shock when he takes out an injunction on her latest book. Janet Street-Porter cropped up to say Front's character was 'laughing all the way to the cash machine'. Although in the realms of broad comedy, it said a lot about the growing trend for writers and journalists to mine their own lives for material. You won't catch me falling into that trap. For one thing, my wife would kill me.

15 Minute Drama, Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4, weekdays, 10am.



LBC, the London talk radio station, made full use of the City's latest landmark by basing its coverage of the Diamond Jubilee flotilla at the top of The Shard, the skyscraper designed by Renzo Piano at London Bridge. The building opens officially next month.

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