Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 13 February

Stanley Baxter shines in the alternative Macbeth

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-portrait-176Like most sentient beings, I am a big fan of Stanley Baxter. I grew up with those glorious TV spectaculars where he played nearly every part, sending up the programmes of the day with pin-sharp accuracy and just the merest hint of smut. Also, I’m anybody’s for a bit of Parliamo Glasgow. Many of the shows are on DVD and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

In recent years, the great man has concentrated on radio, the medium in which he began, largely because you don’t need to build an expensive set for a mental picture. The Stanley Baxter Playhouse, the 2010 series, which is currently being repeated on Radio 4 Extra (Mondays, 7am and 5.30pm), is cracking stuff.

The first of these, The Porter’s Story by Rona Munro, tells an alternative version of Macbeth’s installation on the Scottish throne, in which King Duncan does not die. Instead, the Thane’s manservant intends to keep the old boy stocious on tonic wine in a highland hideaway while his master takes over as King.

That’s the simple version of the plot, designed to entice while not giving too much away. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of laughs along the way, with Siobhan Redmond turning in a superb performance as a lusty, brutal Lady Macbeth, largely concerned with killing and disembowelling big game. Gordon Kennedy plays Macbeth as an agreeable oaf, caught between a valet with big ideas for his master and a wife who just wants to stockpile venison.

Naturally, Baxter’s character is the narrator and the centrepiece, and he shines. They all do. For this, I broke my rule of never listening to comedy on public transport. Fortunately, the bus was fairly empty, and the strange guffawing man was tolerated. 

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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