Radio Drama Reviews:Jun 2022
Harry Turnbull

Barbeque 67

Featuring Robert Glenister and Anamaria Marinca
Directed by Andy Jordan
Written by Andy Barrett

Ah the Summer of Love 1967. Hippies, flower power, anti war demonstrations and countless Sausalito sunsets. But not so fast. A new audio drama claims to tell the real story of how it all started......in the backwater of Spalding, Lincolnshire. In the Tulip Bulb village hall punters paid a pound a piece to see a host of legends just as they were starting to light up the music scene. Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Cream and Geno Washington were amongst those on the bill. How many beatniks turned up is anyone’s guess.

Naturally it has gone down in history in the Hicksville agricultural town in England’s flatlands but did it really beat San Francisco to the birth of the Summer of Love? That’s debatable but it seems it did spark the birth of the music festival, and as the Floyd’s Nick Mason observed, it embodied a moment of huge cultural change.

The story about that momentous time is told in flashback by an old rocker who befriends a young Romanian woman who loves Hendrix. It then becomes clear that the narrator is trying to draw a line from 1967 – when Spalding embraced the world – to more modern times when East European potato pickers were made less than welcome in the communities around Lincolnshire.

This friendship between the old Brit and the younger European I guess is meant to represent how we should all live together in harmony – something the hippies would definitely have approved of.

The narrator Doug was married to the area tulip queen, who has died, and recounts sharing a car journey with Hendrix discussing the finer points of the spring bulb harvest.

As it is of course Brexit put paid to the idea that everyone should rub along together and now agricultural workers are in short supply.

And as the Romanian Tereza commented ‘I can’t believe the summer of love came out of a place like this’. And of course a few slices of music from that era.

Limits To Growth

Featuring Samantha Dakin
Produced by Emma Harding

Fifty years ago Donella Meadows and other academics voiced a dystopian fear that gnawed at the heart of existence on earth. Could the insatiable quest for growth to feed gluttonous consumerism result in a world unable to sustain itself?

The answer appears to be a resounding yes as lessons from their work Limits To Growth appear not to have been learnt. Every economic shock is accompanied by politicians asserting that the only way out is increased productivity, including in solving the current crisis.

This stampede for increased productivity, growth and profits lies at the heart of the modern capitalist world and will ultimate be its downfall if things don’t change. Meadows articulated this fear of an agonising disruption, breaching the elemental harmony of the universe and pushing the boundaries of humankind.

Although the Radio 4 Sunday afternoon slot has traditionally been allocated to book adaptations, this was a little unusual, principally because it wasn’t a drama, more like a documentary or lecture. I guessed the idea was to bring this important subject to a wider audience than a documentary slot.

It turned out this was exactly the idea, as producer Emma Harding explained: “Sarah Woods is very interested in systems thinking and wanted to bring the ideas within LtG to a wider audience. Telling the story of Donella Meadows provides an engaging way to communicate complex ideas. In the broadest sense making the political personal”.

When the book came out in 1972 it was roundly castigated by the establishment. Even now the attention of developed nations is on climate change and little heed is paying to population consumption and resource crises. The model predicted in 1972 states quite simply that the earth cannot viably sustain 8 billion people, which is exactly where we are heading.

Samantha Dakin appeared as Donella, the voice of reason, arguing that the drive for more and more growth was causing economic upheaval, pollution, climate change, resource shortages and unsustainable population growth. What was needed was a massive reset.

Funnily enough the elites are considering this but only an economic reset that will play out in their favour. If we continue to have politicians with no vision like Johnson and Starmer it looks like we’re doomed.

Cocktail Sticks
Radio 4 (First broadcast 2015)

The familiar lugubrious intonation of Alan Bennett acts as a comfort blanket in these uncertain times. Not for him an obsession with shattering world events and sonic technologies, instead he focuses on more immediate matters such as, ‘what’s for tea?’.

One imagines him at home with a brew, face slackened in tranquility, eyes half open and thoughtfully considering the trivial events of the day.

This production was an adaptation of Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre effort featuring Bennett as his older self and Alex Jennings as the younger.

Although Bennett’s Yorkshire childhood appears mundane there is an undercurrent that crystallises the unavoidable truth that riffs and tensions entrench themselves within all human relationships.

Iphigenia in Crimea
Drama on 3

Lads in ladies drawers apparently wasn’t as unusual as you may think in the days of regimental honour and cavalry charges.

When troops were marauding around places like Crimea in the 19th century, concert parties were one way of relieving tension and dressing up like maids was often a feature.

The idea was woven into Tony Harrison’s retelling of the Greek tale about Iphigenia, the maiden sacrificed by her father Agamemnon on the eve of the Trojan War.

Blake Ritson’s tone was a little disconcerting at first until I realised some of the dialogue was in verse. A timely reminder of the war in which an alliance of nations defeated the Russians.

Round up
Some books are made for adaptations whilst others sadly are not. Giant’s Bread by Agatha Christie writing under a pen name falls into the later category. An hour long and virtually incomprehensible, even after trying to digest the plot summary on Wikipedia. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a struggle.

Not so Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky on 4Extra; 33 years after first appearing on the network was more like it. The semi-autobiographical trilogy of novels by Patrick Hamilton exude a gritty realism and this is reflected in this production. I hope some day someone will get around to adapting Hamilton’s The Charmer, for me one of the best TV dramas of recent decades. Check it out on Youtube.

Life Rights was an afternoon BBC Scotland drama that explored what could happen when a writer attempts to pen a story about a same-sex relationship from 25 years in the past. These days if you are writing a true story but disguising it as fiction it is best to get permission from those involved. Head of drama in Scotland Bruce Young gave me that advice some time ago. It might not be so easy when, in this case, the subject is now a married man whose family has no idea of his sexual ambiguity.

Harry Turnbull @Turnbullissimo


Thanks, Harry, for these reviews .... ND


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