Monday, April 28, 2008

The Pumpkin Eater (1962)

Surely the women's novel of all women's novels - about love, marriage, babies and the loss of fertility. And yet Penelope Mortimer's blazing talent makes even this cynical, single man utterly unable to put it down. An overlooked classic of mid twentieth century British fiction.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Frozen in Time - the ageless Journey Into Space

Twenty-seven years since the disappointing Return From Mars, fifty-three years since they blasted off for The World in Peril, Jet Morgan, Lemmie, Doc and Mitch zoom to the rescue in Journey Into Space: Frozen in Time (R4, Saturday Play, April 12 2008).

Return From Mars was pish but Frozen in Time exemplified the effortless inventiveness required of a Golden Age radio serial, not least the brilliant conceit that the crew have been cryogenically preserved over the decades, whilst Jet's unit failed and he has circled the galaxy, alone and ageing, for a fictional 30 years. The only surviving member of the original cast, 82 year old David Jacobs, plays the cosmos-weary Jet with elegant aplomb.

The knowing asides are ingenious. The space travellers consider news of global warming on Earth "far-fetched". After all, when they blasted off from Woomera in 1973 (1955) the anticipated, scientifically-proven apocalypse was a new Ice Age. Equally, they are told "Britain doesn't do space" and is now a provider of financial services only.
Perhaps the reason Frozen in Time is so much better than Return From Mars is simply length - 60 minutes instead of an achingly dull 90. There is thus no need of woolly exposition or trivial subplots to pad out the slot. Also, Frozen in Time, like the three original series, boasts a virtually continous musical soundtrack, so that even the transitions maintain the cinematic pace.
Charles Chilton, the greatest British writer of radio serials and a world great, has - at the ripe old age of 91 - lost none of his ability. If the BBC had any sense at all they would commission him to storyline a Doctor Who special before it's too late.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Don't beat about the bush, girl! Say what you mean!

"An awfully big misadventure, this Spanish mauling of J M Barrie's masterpiece flies into the Garrick and crash lands belly-up. There are no survivors. Such is the mind-boggling awfulness of this family show, performed in Spanish with inept English surtitles, that you wish the Lost Boys had not shot at Wendy but taken aim at this great white elephant and finished it off instead."

Lyn Gardner, reviewing Peter Pan el Musical at London's Garrick Theatre, The Guardian, Wednesday April 2 2008.