Radio Drama Reviews
10 Dec 2020
Harry Turnbull

Broadcast Sunday December 6
Featuring: Jonathan Forbes, Tamara Lawrence
Written by Martin Jameson
Directed by Nicolas Jackson

When I saw the title of this broadcast, I had an idea what was coming. The ‘I’ refers to digital and the ‘promise to pay the bearer’ phrase also sprang to mind. As suspected, it was a story about cryptocurrencies, and more specifically, seemed designed to educate a Radio 4 audience about this strange world of computer-generated money. If that was the intention, it sadly failed.

This was never clearer when criminal mastermind Kevin Straw – the now familiar Irish brogue of Jonathan Forbes from Tracks – launched into a monologue about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin without even being prompted by a question from another character.

This, as any creative writing student or visitor to the BBC Writers’ room knows, contradicts the Golden Rule of ‘Show don’t tell’. This means explanations are given via action and dialogue not by a summarising statement or monologue.

Briefly, the story concerns a computer hacker called Bit (dear me) who is courted by both security services and a gang intent on obtaining crypto millions from a supercomputer created by a mad genius who died in a plane crash. Bit’s task is to crack the key and release the fortune.

It was so muddled and clunky I am sure most listeners would have been left even more baffled about his new form of monetary exchange. We were also treated to a policy statement; that in fact digital currency is no different to paper money as both rely on those willing to believe in them as a store of value. Of course, this isn’t quite true as paper or ‘fiat’ money as it is known, is legal tender backed by governments.

I was actually reminded of some dealings I had with the England and Wales Cricket Board when I was a magazine editor and left stupified by the number of digital marketing ‘experts’ that were being employed to ‘modernise’ the game. It was clear the old guard had been bowled a googly and just went along with any old preposterous jargon they heard. I can only assume whoever commissioned this was similarly bamboozled.

Quite how it captured the classic serial slot on Sunday is another mystery.

Oh, by they way, if you still want to catch up on BBC Sounds, I think it is also meant to be comedic although I am sure the producers Afonica will describe it as ‘tongue in cheek’.

Broadcast Tuesday December 1
Featuring Mark Womack and Mark Noble
Produced by Gary Brown

In which a taxi-driver ferries a failed drug-dealer around Liverpool and listens to his existentialist musings. Written by Tony Schumacher, who, before taking up the quill, operated as a cabbie in Liverpool.

Tony has been quite well-known in certain circles of the city as a former odd-jobber and underpants salesman trying to make it as a scribbler. Now he is being mentored by the legend that is Jimmy McGovern, that seems to have assured take-off.

The message of this story seemed to be that the underclass like Mikey (Noble) have no option but a life of misery, usually fuelled by either taking drugs or selling them. Now I am sure Tone has seen a lot of the underbelly of life but even so, this is a tad pessimistic and very much 1980s Liverpool.

Lennon: A Week in the Life
Broadcast December 8
First aired 2010
Written by Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais
Produced by Jessica Dromgoole

Another Scouse tale. For the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s death, Radio 4 repeated a decade old drama in the afternoon slot. I have no real complaints about that although some might argue it could have been updated.

Take, for instance, someone who had obtained Lennon his first guitar. That was the story I heard when sitting in my landlord’s front room on December 8 1980. I was a cub reporter north of Liverpool and renting a room with a chap in his delightful thatched cottage. The only drawback being his parsimony – no lights on after 10 p.m., for instance.

There we were watching the news with just one bar allowed on the electric fire when it was announced that Lennon had been shot. It was quite a shock. After a while, Mr Curtis dropped in the Lennon guitar story.

I was sceptical. I knew nothing about him but did learn that as well as being tight he was a big-licks and former director of Liverpool FC.

A few days later, on the kitchen table, lay an old faded photograph of him with the legend and a guitar. Might make a good tale one of these days! In this story, promoter Sam Leach organises a big memorial knees-up for the fallen Beatle.

Harry Turnbull, 10 Dec 2020

Thanks Harry for these reviews .... ND


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