Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 27 February

New comedy, Boswell’s Lives, starring Miles Jupp, is a riot

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-dog-176There are few things that please me more than a good Harold Pinter impersonation. So when I saw that Harry Enfield, who like his chum Paul Whitehouse just keeps getting better and better, was giving us his Pinter in Jon Canter’s new comedy series Boswell’s Lives (Radio 4, Weds at 11.30am) I was thrilled.

In this series, Miles Jupp plays Dr Johnson’s biographer, James Boswell, travelling through time, attempting to record the lives of other historical greats. Hamstrung by his own self-importance, he often misses the point and aggravates his subjects, chosen for their notorious ‘difficulty’, with crushingly obvious questions. He asks Pinter what one of his plays would be without the pauses. ‘It would be,’ Pinter replies, pausing for effect, ‘shorter.’

Being 11.30am, we don’t get the full Pinter, with explosive profanity intact, but it is alluded to nicely when Pinter looks up in irritation from his crossword to put the nagging Boswell down. ‘For God’s sake, man, leave me alone. (4,3),’ Enfield spits. ‘Is the second word “off”?’ asks Boswell. ‘BULLSEYE ’. We’re getting ahead of ourselves slightly, as Pinter is the last show of the three. The middle one features Arabella Weir as Maria Callas, while in the first, Boswell meets Sigmund Freud, depicted with excellence by Henry Goodman. Boswell finds Freud more interested in psychoanalysing and terrorising him than answering any biographer-type questions.

Until, that is, they take cocaine and Freud opens up. However, the smug drug makes Boswell even more vain and self-regarding and the scene is a riot, with Jupp bellowing self-aggrandisements while Goodman chunters away in the background about childhood. You will laugh, I promise you. 

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email: wireless@cheeseford.net



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