Thursday, 06 September 2012

Radio Review: 7 September

Is afternoon drama the stage to settle old scores – with the subtlety of a sledgehammer?

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWSometimes the trailer is enough. I knew that Jonathan Myerson's contribution to Radio 4's Afternoon Drama strand would be terrible, simply from hearing the 30-second taster. However, I'm glad that morbid curiosity led me to listen. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have known precisely how terrible. Expectations were exceeded.

The premise of Do You Know Who Wrote This? was that a mother had found unflattering descriptions of herself posted pseudonymously on the 'Chatmums' message board by parents of children at the same school. Burning with rage, she wanted to know who had written them. Miraculously, a virus meant that her wish was granted.

Potentially, this was an interesting starting point, but it turned into buzzword bingo with Myerson throwing in random terms from the online world and, to show how in touch he is, Facebook, LinkedIn, glitch, algorithm, Stephen Fry, Mo Farah, pommel horse. About 25 minutes in, I found myself shouting 'house'.

The scenes were linked by synthesised music of a type that ceased to sound futuristic at some point between Harold Wilson's resignation and the death of Magnus Pyke. Myerson's attempt at writing dialogue for teenage girls was embarrassing, and he wasn't much better at writing for adults. Meanwhile, the technical side amounted to 'What does that button do?' 'It's a plot device.'

My fundamental problem was that Myerson made his heroine smug and unsympathetic. I also suspected that he was settling anold score with Mumsnet, whose members almost unanimously condemned his partner Julie Myerson for writing a book about their eldest child's drug problem.

The play's thrust was confused. The unmasking of online critics, a good thing in Myerson's real-life view, somehow contributes to the near-destruction of society.

Suddenly, restoring anonymity looks attractive. Then it transpires that the smug woman has caused the virus through magic. The police storm her house with the founder of Facebook in tow. She's a witch. Burn her. Oh no, it's her son's doing. He doesn't want people to lie. And there we have it. The play's twee, fluffy moral wrapped around a flying brick.

I'm not naming the actors, because I want them to move on from this atrocity. But BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who made a cameo appearance, should know better.




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