Monday, 04 January 2016

Radio Review: 1 January

Nonagenarian June Whitfield is a delight

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176Annoyingly, I found out about Radio 4’s June Whitfield: 90 Not Out (available on iPlayer) only after the Christmas triple issue of The Lady had gone to press, otherwise I’d have mentioned it in my round-up. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the festive wireless. A two-parter with an omnibus repeat on Christmas Day, it took the form of Whitfield chatting with AbFab chum Joanna Lumley, and had lots of fascinating archive material.

For instance, everybody knows that Whitfield worked with Frank Muir and Denis Norden on Take It From Here, but how many knew that Whitfield provided the voices for various strains of bacteria in a public information film?

A good 30 years after Take It From Here finished, one of Whitfield’s voices came out of retirement for The News Huddlines. Needing to impersonate Norma Major, Whitfield was stuck until ‘someone, either Roy [Hudd] or Chris [Emmett], said “Do Eth.”’ An inspired suggestion. I won’t spoil the story of how the canny Whitfield got the Huddlines gig, though.

Stories abound about Terry Scott being difficult to work with, but Whitfield never had a problem – and she’d know better than most. Scott was, she says, a ‘perfectionist’, but her own preferred tactic was to agree with his suggestions and then keep doing exactly what she had done before. Scott had the illusion of control, but knew that he was in safe hands with Whitfield. Everybody happy.

Lumley made an excellent point about the acting profession and the fickle nature of television when she asked why older actors, all the time getting better at what they do, are so frequently passed over for younger talent. Whitfield agreed that it was a problem, but admitted sweetly that ‘I can’t complain’.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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