Radio Drama Reviews, Oct 2021
Harry Turnbull

Harry Turnbull's Reviews, 19 Oct 2021.

City College
Drama on 3
Written by Rex Obana
Featuring Cyril Nri
Produced by Femi Elufowojo jnr

Issues of race and gender have become so polarised many people are now terrified of saying something which might offend. But there are so many anomalies. For instance, it seems some individuals can determine their own gender whereas others who identify with a particular race are vilified for ‘cultural appropriation’.

However, this was an interesting exploration of black history and who owns it.

In City College the black history professor Rashaan Talley played by the husky voiced Cyril Nri appears to enjoy both teaching and deflowering students. Accusations flare when he is accused of playing down slavery when in fact, he would say, he is merely promulgating debate. Matters are complicated when a white female student says he has plagiarised ideas she had shared with him in an as yet unpublished thesis.

In this case, is the view of the black history professor more valid than his white PhD student?

This thought came to mind after listening to a discussion on another programme in which Irish author Colm Tobin appeared to say he was not qualified to pen a novel on the slave trade. Of course he meant qualified in terms of his connections to the subject rather than in an academic sense. However some of the greatest historical novelists have been connected purely by academia, think Robert Graves or Rex Warner.

At a time when views are literally becoming polarised into black and white we seem to be heading into territory so far uncharted, especially if views are only valid if the individual has a direct connection or experience..

The Goldilocks Zone
Radio 4
Writer Tanika Gupta
Produced by Nadia Molinari

I was wondering what had happened to the parson's wife in The Archers and here was our answer; Usha (Souad Faress ) turned up as an astrophycist of the future trying to save the world. This futuristic drama revolved around exo planets, black holes, refugees, closed borders a pandemic and lost sisters. Quite an aural pot pouri resulting from a collaboration involving OKRE experimental studies.

The Goldilocks Zone refers to an area around a star deemed able to support life, not too hot, not too cold but just right. I guess a parallel is drawn here between displaced refugees and the search for another planet for humans to colonise after destroying Mother Earth.

The Reader
By Bernard Schlink

Never have I tuned in to Radio 4 in readiness for the mellifluous tones of Winifred Robinson on You and Yours to be confronted with such graphic lunchtime cavortings.

Rupert Wickham read to us the episode about a schoolboy who couldn’t contain his excitement at being naked in the shower with an older woman. Of course this no doubt may be the stuff of dreams but what if it had been a schoolgirl in the shower with an older man?

One can only imagine the bulging mailbox at Feedback.

Radio4 Extra reprise - The Destruction Factor
By James Follett (1939-2021)

James Follett’s passing earlier this year saw little in the way of fanfare obituaries despite his contribution as a novelist, radio and TV writer. It’s a pity, given his storytelling ability, particularly in the field of scifi. His son Rich tells me he spent the last few months in a home suffering from vascular dementia before passing on January 10. He was laid to rest in Chiddingford, Surrey.

As another article on this website shows, James became frustrated with BBC radio drama operations and began reducing his work many years ago. This was due to in-house productions increasingly playing a secondary role to outside broadcasters (this has since picked up pace).

The BBC has featured a number of his works including the Earthsearch series. 4Extra has been broadcasting The Destruction Factor, a doomsday story about plants created to reduce world famine but creating havoc instead.

The story exemplifies a typical doomsday scenario involving plants developed by a fertiliser corporation. Quite topical too as the American giant CF Fertilisers has hit the headlines recently by bagging millions from the government to continue processing CO2 needed by the food and drinks industry ( I thought CO2 was supposed to be real bad?).

I actually asked CF Fertilisers about this, after all they are very close neighbours of mine in the Cheshire countryside and I’d like to know what they get upto down on the marshes here. No reply as yet.

The Destruction Factor is currently available on BBC Sounds.

(......Note from Editor - nothing wrong with CO2; it's good stuff.
Jim's photo sent by his son, Rich, and used by permission)

Ambridge Extra

A curious thing began happening a couple of years ago; the aristocrats of Ambridge, the village bourgeoisie, the epitome of the Range Rover elite, began what seems to be an inexorable slide downwards. It was bad enough that Brian Aldridge was unmasked as a wicked pollutant of the river Am but the ripples are now gathering apace like a tsunami.

The question must be asked; have they got it in for the Aldridges? Have the programme-makers decided to smash the family most symbolic of Middle England? After the pollution palaver they were forced to sell the country pile at Home Farm to pay costs. This of course mortified Jennifer who had splashed a fortune on a splendid kitchen which even had its own opening ceremony.

This one act - kicking the Aldridges out from the ancestral home into a poky cottage - symbolised the dismantling of the middle-classes. It was a deliberate act of sabotage.

But bizarrely the grand manor house has been mentioned just a couple of times in three years. This place, one of the cornerstones of Ambridge life, is now not worth a couple of lines. Early it was mentioned that a family called the Gills had moved in but since then virtually nothing.

Losing the house seems to have wreaked psychological mayhem on its former inhabitants. The darling daughter, the muskily fragrant Alice has descended into alcoholism and is now to divorce, giving the poor relations, the Carters, a foothold on dynastic land. Adam is all at sea. First he helps himself to farm cash without declaring its a loan, then he leaves and now he has quit his new jobs and is picking spuds at Bridge Farm. Will he be next to hit the bottle?

For reasons only known to the powers-that-be, the illegitimate son Ruairi, then confessed to his parents he swings both ways. I wonder whether the editorial team wanted to go full trans but bottled it. Brian seemed to put on a brave face though. What’s all this about?

Speculation; but maybe someone got fed up of being criticised for using the Grundys as the perennial punchbags. Or maybe within the hierarchy lurks a class warrior who has decided to teach the Aldridges a lesson.

HT, 19 Oct 21

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


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