Saturday, December 31, 2011
Writer Sarah Phelps did a drastic prune which has filled newspaper letter columns and blogs everywhere with howls of anguish from those who deify Dickens.
The truth is Dickens is very rarely read word-for-word nowdays. It may very well be that he never was. Some of his meanings and references are simply lost in time; his mawkish sentimentality is simply unfashionable. But the main reason we all skip some passages is that Dickens wrote for weekly serialisation. He had no choice but to persist with characters and themes that seemed like good ideas up front but which didn't catch fire in writing.
I therefore loved what Phelps did with this version. She focused on the central characters - Pip and Estella, Magwitch and Miss Havisham - and allowed only those secondary characters essential to their stories.
The performances were excellent all round - I can't recall a bad one. This is largely because the sparse dialogue allowed the actors to act. The direction and photography were superb. But my top plaudit has to go to Sarah Phelps. Her dramatisation did what BBC dramatisations are supposed to do - it sent me back to the book, which I haven't read since I was an undergrad and which I am now enjoying almost as much as I enjoyed the dramatisation.
And you bet I'm skipping over the grotesques and non-starters.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Saturday, December 03, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
- Caesar Price Our Lord by Fin Kennedy
- Severed Threads by John Dryden
- Troll by Ed Harris
Winners to be announced November 16.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I have just finished reading Westwood, one of a whole series of Stella Gibbons novels recently republished by the fabulous Vintage Classics.
Gibbons (1902-89) has never been forgotten. That said, she is remembered for only one novel, one of the greatest first novels ever published and probably the best loved of all literary satires, the wondrous Cold Comfort Farm (1932).
In fact, Gibbons published continuously and successfully for the better part of half a century. There are two further Cold Comfort novels, also now in Vintage.
Westwood is a wartime novel, published in 1946 but set (and I suspect written) a couple of years earlier. My guess would be 1944, with the air raids continuing but the Blitz itself long over. It certainly has to be after the beginning of 1942 because the Americans are established participants in the war.
Westwood has this wartime background but is in fact a gentle satire of the pretentious Hampstead set – notably the overweening and justly forgotten West End playwright Charles Morgan – couched in the form of a comedy of manners.
The paperback has a quote from the Times on the back cover, citing Gibbons as a 20th Century Jane Austen. This is exactly right, with the heroine, Margaret ‘Struggles’ Steggles more a Catherine Morland than an Emma Woodhouse.
What Gibbons has, which Austen does not particularly possess, is a gift for effortless incidental description. Take this for example, culled at random from one of the later chapters. The dramatic point of the chapter is a party at the big house to which Margaret has been invited as a very peripheral adjunct to the gilded circle. But Gibbons takes the time to describe the garden which Margaret passes through on her way in.
“It was a calm evening, grey and still. Soft plumes of violet cloud lay along the west, where a little golden light broke through, wave on wave of cloud lying beyond the clear reaches of the light. Not a leaf stirred, and the pansies and roses, lifting their motionless faces in the flower-beds, looked as if their eyes were shut. There was a sweet cool smell in the air of freshly mown grass. A trail of blades and severed daisies had escaped as Cortway was carrying the heaped bin over the paths and lay along the ground; his sight was not so good as it used to be, and he had overlooked them when he was sweeping.”
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Reading the Radio 4 blog led me to an article in the Guardian (probably the last national newspaper to devote any real attention to radio drama news, although they all do a certain level of reviewing).
John Dryden and Matthew Solon, the pair behind 2008’s The Day that Lehman Died, are working on a drama doc for the World Drama strand about England’s failed bid for the 2018 football world cup. Not in itself particularly interesting – corruption in an international sporting organisation entirely dominated by non-sportsmen from non-sporting minor nations (wow, hold the front page!) – it is interesting that a channel and an art form both pretty much despised by the current, hopeless Director General continue to flout intimations of mortality.
Worth looking out for.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
"Speech radio costs lots of money: it recently proved too expensive for Channel 4, when it tried to develop a rival service. Indeed, much brainpower and money have been spent on trying to build commercial alternatives. It can’t be done: Radio 4 exists only because it is protected by the licence fee, with the freedom to grow, change shape, try new things, and refresh old favourites.
"Above all, what keeps it on the air is quality. And the big news is that there seems to be a new market for it. Radio 4 now has 10.85 million people listening to it every week, an increase on the last quarter, and an increase on this time last year. Its drama reaches a weekly audience of 7.14 million, comedy 5.67 – both the highest figures ever. The Archers, having dipped after the death of Nigel, are now back up, reaching 5.08 million fans a week (although perhaps the current E coli scandals will dent the next set of ratings).
"Radio is also adaptable: it suits new listening technologies. Programmes from Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time to The Archers fit the podcast as well as the broadcast. Radio knows how to grow writers. Is there any new comedy on TV as good as Cabin Pressure, on Friday mornings? It knows its audience, respects its intelligence."
Monday, August 01, 2011
“Good old Norway,” he said, and stroked his country with his finger, from north to south. “For many years now we’ve talked about what a colourful society we are and what a multicultural country we’ve become, and allowed ourselves to be lulled into a sense of security, peace, innocence – that we were somehow different. We’re always saying that the world is pressing in on us from all sides, yet at the same time we get extremely offended if that very same world doesn’t see us in exactly the same way that we have always perceived ourselves to be, as an idyllic place on earth. A peaceful corner of the world, rich and generous and kind to everyone.”
It was hard not be moved, after the actions of one sociopathic Nazi in Norway last week, when I found this in the novel I’m reading. “Death in Oslo” was published in 2006. Even five years ago someone intelligent and empathic could see how vulnerable the idyll might be. The passage has particular resonance when you realise that the author, Anne Holt, was briefly the Norwegian Justice Minister.
Norway is still the ideal social democracy. Outrages happen. No one can predict mass murderers. When the worst problem your system of governance has on its plate is finding a means to keep this subhuman in prison for more than the maximum twenty years, be assured your nation is doing everything right.
Monday, July 18, 2011
I rarely bother with Radio 4’s Classic Serial, being more interested in original drama than derivative dramatisations and not at all interested in brutal hack jobs on great literature. Knocking a novel of 300 pages or more down to two hours is pure vandalism.
I have never, however, read Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy and was attracted by the fact that The History of Titus is a six-episode, and therefore six-hour undertaking.
It is superb. Brian Sibley, an authority on Peake who assisted Peake’s widow with the unfinished Titus Awakes, has maintained the rackety sprawl of Peake’s characters and, despite inevitable cuts and compressions, keeps up a strong dramatic pace. Jeremy Mortimer’s production is an object lesson in the radiophonic arts and some of the acting – most of the acting – is exceptional. Paul Rhys’s agonised howl at the burnt ruins of Sepulchrave’s beloved library scoured the soul.
So this is the perfect example of a BBC Classic Serial. It works within its own terms as a highly successful drama and it prompts the listener to get hold of the original forthwith.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I don’t know, you wait a couple of years for more Torchwood and two brand new series come along in the same week. On BBC1 TV we welcomed the new transatlantic co-production, the ten-part Miracle Day. On BBC Radio 4 we had three self-contained episodes under the umbrella title The Lost Files, which enabled them to resurrect the character of Ianto.
It’s funny. I wasn’t keen on the last TV series (Torchwood Season 3: The Children of Earth) but I loved Miracle Day. I loved the last radio season (notably The Golden Age) but The Lost Files was so unremittingly awful I couldn’t last the course. Rubbish ideas, clumsily executed and brought to the airwaves with all the loving care of a fishmonger gutting fish. Unspeakable.
But back to the positive…
Captain Jack already has an American accent and coat, so it didn’t seem at all odd for him to be Stateside, whilst living in hiding on the remotest stretch of Welsh coast, and becoming a mother, has only souped up the wondrous Gwen (the always brilliant Eve Myles, above). The American co-stars felt right because they are already stars. Bill Pullman was super-creepy and Mekhi Phifer nothing short of magnificent – who is ever going to forget him driving a war surplus jeep along the Welsh beach while Gwen looses her bazooka on the chasing ‘copter?
Obviously huge amounts of co-production cash have been lavished on the show. This is because American TV execs know a good thing when they see it. The good thing in this case (OK, the biggest of several good things) is the writer. Russell T Davies here reminds us why he was able to make Doctor Who go global and why the current series of Doctor Who lost a little of its shine. Davies is able to thrill hardcore sci fi buffs with the originality of his ideas but keep the mass audience on board with characterisation and compassion. His replacement as Doctor Who showrunner, Steven Moffat, can certainly deploy a formidable arsenal of sci fi tropes but he simply can’t do credible compassion. His audience is said to be shrinking slightly, which is a shame.
Maybe the second half of the current season, which wrapped filming last Monday, will vindicate his stewardship. I for one hope so, because I got really bored with the first half. In the meantime, we have Torchwood.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Is it perhaps because of the content? Because for me the most startling aspect was the inescapable fact that ordinary working Germans knew exactly what the Nazis were up to in the concentration camps and approved, either tacitly or overtly.
The story is that Fallada, dying, knocked this off in 24 days. He always wrote intensely but, even so, 24 days seems an impossibility. I can imagine a draft in that time but he must have gone back and deepened the story later. On the other hand, he did die soon after. Whatever, this translation should put Fallada centrestage in 20th century European literature. I cannot wait to get my hands on more of his works.
In the US, Alone in Berlin is apparently called Every Man Dies Alone. I’m pretty sure it’s the same novel.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
It’s been a while, at least a year, since I visited my local art gallery. This morning I had to be in Leicester anyway, so I took the time to drop in.
New Walk is always a boost – such a beautiful building, such an unusual specialism (German expressionism), so imaginatively displayed.
The Attenborough gift of Picasso ceramics now has a permanent gallery showing 40 or so objects at any one time. The gallery is in memory of Lord and Lady Attenborough’s daughter and granddaughter, lost in the 2005 tsunami. I find these works inspirational – the greatest artist of the 20th century rediscovering his mojo in his 60s and 70s – but I hope this dedicated space doesn’t limit display opportunities for other treasures in the Leicester collection.
As always at this time of year the Leicester Society of Artists is having its annual exhibition. They have some extremely gifted members. My favourite exhibits this year happen are two acrylic paintings – Lutterworth Market by Husbands Bosworth artist Ann Saxton (www.annsaxtonart.com), which I like for geographical reasons, and Night Rain by Barbara Agg, with its sumptuous, seductive blues.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Took myself off to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford the other day, my first visit. I was drawn by the current exhibition Heracles to Alexander, which was a big disappointment. Wildly overpriced at £8 for three average-sized galleries and not a single article that was ever likely to have been handled by either of the great men. What it really was was a collection of stuff largely created for Big Al’s father Phil and Al’s posthumous, undistinguished son. Only two items could properly be called treasures, both ornamental crowns, one of myrtle, the other gold, rendered with breathtaking skill. For a fiver or less I would willingly have paid to see these but for £8, no thanks.
The newly restored building, however, is a marvel packed with beautiful and historically interesting items. Ironically, the bits that fascinated me most were in the old building, mostly art. Three paintings in particular held me spellbound and more than warranted the train fare (I still begrudge the £8).
First to stop me in my tracks was Piero di Cosimo’s Forest Fire (c. 1500).
It’s an usual subject, so far as I know unique, and doubtless meant something to Piero and his patron. The fact that the meaning has long since been lost only adds to its interest, as does the discrepancy in quality of the various animal images. The cow up front is so realistic you instinctively step back to take it in. The lions are poor, the so-called bears rubbish – if I didn’t know better I’d have guessed wombats. Likewise the birds: the banking hawk dead centre is on a par with the cow but the thing that looks a bit like a bittern to the right of the tree appears to be attempting some sort of kamikaze crash-and-burn manoeuvre. And what of the pig and deer with human faces, slinking shamefacedly off to the left? I loved it.
Hanging nearby was a painting of similar dimensions, Uccello’s Hunt in the Forest.
This is said to have been the last painting Uccello worked on. Pretty good for an octogenarian. His career, and this painting in particular, bridge the medieval and the renaissance. The image is flat, like a tapestry, with the trees so similar they might be a stock design repeated, and yet the artist’s main focus is clearly to establish perspective, with everything converging on an external vanishing point dead centre. It took me a moment to work out what the shimmering blue line on the right was: it’s a river, glimpsed through the trees. The main contradiction – and visual dynamic – is the juxtaposition of the brilliant colours of the figures and river with the midnight blue sky. This is a night scene yet we see everything with crystalline clarity. Where is the light source? Somewhere else, apparently, perhaps with the huntsmen’s prey.
And finally, Walter Sickert’s Brighton Pierrots from 1915. Another night scene or at least twilit. Look at the vermilion blush of dusk – the lights in the hotel windows overlooking the promenade. Because light is fading Sickert can mute the artificial colours of the pierrot costumes, blue and pink and viridian green. The figure centrestage, however, is in a russet suit and boater. Is this the master of ceremonies or the patter comedian, flogging his material to a small, disinterested audience?
A moment in time, a banal event from a century ago rendered magical by uncharacteristic restraint on Sickert’s part. By far the best of his paintings that I have seen.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
I read in Paul Donovan’s ‘Radio Waves’ column in last week’s Sunday Times ‘Culture’ supplement (May 29) that the BBC has finally realised the value of its prime radio product, drama. According to Donovan, whom I consider to be the leading radio columnist currently working for the national broadsheets, there is to be a radio drama awards night at Broadcasting House on December 4. Also, what Donovan describes as “new family-friendly dramas on 4Extra.” All to the good is what I say.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Excellent interview with Fukuyama in today’s Guardian (G2, pp 7-9). The following statement particularly resonated with me.
“Collectively it seems to me that the EU is in big trouble,” he says. “They basically let in a whole bunch of countries that they shouldn’t have. There’s no mechanism for disciplining them once they’re in and there’s no exit strategy.” He doesn’t understand why Greece, Ireland and Portugal are submitting to the euro straitjacket. “The policy which is now being dictated out of Berlin is crazy. There’s just no way those countries are going to grow with a strong currency and an austerity policy that stretches out for years into the future. They’ll have to consider coming out.”
The interview is by Stephen Moss.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Karin Fossum, the Norwegian crime writer who is now being published in English on the back of the success of Mankell and Nesbo. I have not read any Nesbo but I am familiar with Mankell. I much prefer Fossum. She is obviously influenced by Ruth Rendell – specifically, Rendell in her Barbara Vine style – but develops and refines the genre. On the surface The Water’s Edge is a procedural detective story about a paedophile, but the depth of characterisation Fossum gets into barely 200 pages, her compassion, and above all the final devastating twist are truly remarkable. I want more! I will get more.
This week’s Times Higher Education contains s report by Matthew Reisz about a recent conference at Stanford called Google Wants You, the theme of which was that hi-tech businesses rely on people who have highly-developed thinking skills, whatever the subject.
He writes: “For June Cohen, executive producer of TED Media, anyone who had studied for a PhD, however seemingly irrelevant the topic, had ‘learned stamina and focus and how to listen’ – and those skills would always be valuable to employers.
“As long as PhDs were regarded as essentially academic qualifications, commented another speaker, many people were likely to feel like failures because there were never going to be enough academic jobs, particularly tenure-track ones at elite universities, to go around. Yet the reality was that PhDs offered transferable skills, that many people with doctorates went into business, and that universities needed to acknowledge and celebrate this.”
The keynote speaker, Google’s engineering director, Dr Damon Horowitz, summed up:
“You go into the humanities to pursue your intellectual passion; and it just so happens, as a by-product, that you emerge as a desired commodity for industry. Such is the halo of human flourishing.”
There, in a nutshell, is the reason the US is emerging from recession while the UK sinks ever-deeper in the mire. The US values independent thought, the UK loathes it. The US has proper businesses, the UK’s main commodity is the unemployed.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
I’ve been reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (2010), the latest attempt at the Great American Novel. His subject – the aspirant, midwest nuclear family – is the subject of all GANs and Franzen undertakes a forensic scrutiny of their interrelationships with masterly aplomb. This is his territory; he knows every inch of it. The problem is the context in which he places the Berglund family, the traditional American battleground of nature versus commerce, in this case updated to conservation versus the corporate machine. The character arcs within the context are just too facile – Walter is arbitrarily given control of a multi-million dollar trust to save the cerulean warbler while his 20 year old student son finds himself cutting a deal with a thinly-disguised Halliburton. The story points themselves are acceptable, but the way in and out is so crude and clumsy that it is obvious Franzen has no knowledge of either world. This kills the book, undoing all the fabulous character work. Freedom is a great novel by an American writer but falls some way of short of being the Great American Novel. Shame, because a little more research might have done it.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
The Sony Radio Academy Awards 2011 were announced yesterday, May 9th. Gold went to Every Child Matters (Christopher Reason), a play about child protection, directed up in Manchester by Gary Brown. Silver, predictably enough, went to the most illustrious writer who deigned to write for radio last year, David Hare’s Murder in Samarkand (I really don’t care). Bronze to RIP Boy (Neil McKay) set in a Young Offenders’ Institution. RIP Boy was directed by Melanie Harris for Red Productions, and would probably have been the recipient of my vote if I had one.
For more info check out www.radioawards.org
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I came to Jackson’s work by a circuitous route. I found his recent collection Bears of England serialised on the BBC’s Afternoon Reading and thought, This is a writer I have got to read more of. I tracked down his Booker nominated The Underground Man and was spellbound. Surely this is one of the least-known Booker nominees of recent times. Then, last week, I was mooching round my local library and stumbled upon The Widow’s Tale (2010). Jackson, who is 50 years old and, obviously, a man, entirely inhabits his character of a 63 year old widow. Everything is experienced from her point of view. The story, in itself, is slim, but never fails to hold the reader’s attention. I was swept along, sometimes amused, other times squirming with the unnamed widow. Writing of the highest order without the slightest pretention and with all the artistry masterfully disguised. The best book I have read so far this year – and I haven’t been doing badly in that regard.
It has been announced today that the luminous Elisabeth Sladen has died of cancer, aged only 63. Very sad. Her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the main Dr Who was as good as most but she came into her own with the recent spin-off for CBBC, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which is as good an example of serious ambitious writing for intelligent young people.
Mainstream BBC should pay tribute by running Sarah Jane on Saturday or Sunday teatime.
Readers have voted Master Georgie the winner of the Man Booker Best of Beryl prize. Dame Beryl Bainbridge never won the Booker Prize, albeit she repeatedly made the shortlist. That said, she enjoyed a wide and devoted readership which many Booker winners could only dream of. All in all, it’s a fitting tribute to a great writer. Who can doubt that a public vote is how she would preferred to win? Master Georgie got my vote (see earlier posts below) because it seemed to me the most ambitious in theme and technique.
Monday, April 18, 2011
I’ve been listening to the first hour of D L Coburn’s 1977 theatre classic on the wondrous LA Theatre Works site. The world is convinced that America doesn’t do radio drama but here is the proof. OK, it’s an adaptation but LATW give it in full with actors of the highest quality (Harris Yulin and the magical Katherine Helmond).
The Gin Game is that rarest of dramatic forms the tragi-comedy. Here are genuine laughs but also true tragedy. Coburn brilliantly uses the titular card game as a paradigm for interpersonal relationships, both between the players themselves and their long lost loved ones. I can’t wait for the second hour.
Why doesn’t the BBC broadcast this version? They have been known to broadcast LATW productions before and an informal repertory of British radio actors regularly perform for LATW live in Hollywood. The live audience isn’t always a plus but it certainly is here. A true gem. Find it here (www.latw.org) and relish it while you can!
Much more info about the play itself can be found at www.thegingame.com. Wow, this Coburn guy is one shrewd cookie…
Sunday, April 17, 2011
I have just listened to BBC Play of the Week podcast – Katie Hims’ contribution to R3’s New Mystery Play series for Easter. OK, it’s a restrictive brief and the writers only have 25 minutes or so at their disposal. Nevertheless, this was pretty poor fare.
Sunday, April 03, 2011
Saturday, April 02, 2011
The Sony Radio Academy Award Best Drama nominations have been announced:
Every Child Matters by Christopher Reason, dir Gary Brown, BBC Radio Drama Manchester, Radio 4.
In For A Penny by the Reynolds Brothers, Tempest Productions for BBC Radio Scotland.
Murder in Samarkand by David Hare, dir Clive Brill, prod Ann Scott, Greenpoint Films for Radio 4.
RIP Boy by Neil McKay, dir/prod Melanie Harris, Red Production Company for Radio 4.
The Recordist by Sean Grundy, dir Alison Crawford, BBC Bristol for Radio 4.
Winner announced May 5. For nominations in other categories see: www.radioawards.org.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
"...because it's radio, and because you can go anywhere, I think that people can have a tendency to overcomplicate. When I arrived I don't think there was a single sitcom that was set in 20th century ordinary Britain, which I found quite odd actually."
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
"...people keep telling me how wonderful The Killing is on BBC4. It's a Danish import with subtitles, and significantly it is 20 episodes long. The incomparably fine Mad Men runs to 13 episodes per series. Yet for our own broadcasters, drama output is crippled by risk aversion. Naturally, they cite stratospheric costs as a reason for three episodes rather than 20, 13 or even six, but where there's a will to make an audience feel properly cherished, there's a way. Sadly, the BBC seems to have lost the will."
I would just add three points:
1. Neither The Killing nor Mad Men is written by a screenwriter as cynical as Davies. Neither stars actors as over-exposed as Morrissey or Penelope Wilton.
2. Mad Men is original drama. The Killing is a dramatisation of a contemporary novel. Neither is in themselves 'classic' or 'done better before'.
3. The cost of a 13-part series is less than the cost of the four shorter series that replace it. In drama, as in all things, economy of scale applies.
Saturday, March 05, 2011
Murdoch-phobes will savour the irony that at a juncture in TV history when the chattering classes are supposed to chattering, Tweeting and Facebooking about Sky Atlantic's much-hyped new HBO shows – David Simon's post-Katrina New Orleans saga, Treme, or the lavish Prohibition-era epic Boardwalk Empire – all the noise is actually about an unheralded and subtitled Danish crime series showing free-to-air on BBC Four.
The Killing is keeping a growing group of viewers – 359,000 of them according to last weekend's figures (247,000 watched Boardwalk Empire in the same timeslot) – from doing anything more useful with their Saturday nights, as it follows the slow-burn investigation into the rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in a Copenhagen flat.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
I couldn't bring myself to watch Outcasts on BBC1. Well, not for more than a few minutes at the end. I'm no fan of science fiction and the sci-fi genre I like least is the post-apocalyptic which seems to me an excuse for saving money on special effects. Poor Hermoine Norris struggles gamely and Liam Cunningham impersonates James Nesbitt for whom the part was obviously written.
I read a piece about Matthew Perry's new sitcom Mr Sunshine in the New York Times which led me to read the pilot script, which MP himself had a hand in. It was witty enough but made the fatal error of introducing too many characters in one ep, several of whom are there only to be 'funny' (i.e. cray-zee). It will no doubt pitch up on UK TV somewhere. I may have a look but I'm not hopeful.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
I watched Bluebloods, a fairly run-of-the-mill cop show but worth giving a chance, if only to marvel at Tom Selleck's morph into Mount Rushmore. I'm also catching up on Day 7 of 24, which I missed first time round, and looking forward to the pilot of Six Feet Under tonight.
That said, other channels have some goodies on offer tonight. Sky1 is premiering The Big C, the script of which made me laugh. And ITV1 has a multistrand ghost story, Marchlands, which features the divine Anne Reid.
So... bumper time for TV drama buffs. Count me in!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Saturday, January 08, 2011
Anyhow, the film, based on real events from 1942, was a masterclass in serious TV writing that offered interesting and involving characters whilst never getting bogged down in soap opera tosh and never losing sight of the theme, the essential humanity of both sides in a lethal conflict.
Some of the acting was superb. I am not a big fan of Andrew Buchan in Garrow's Law (although my dislike of the series is basically the stories) but his performance as Junior Third Officer Mortimer was brilliant. Likewise Ken Duken as the German U-boat commander and Franka Potente as the inevitable half-English/half-German character caught in the middle. There were no bad performance.
Perhaps the most reassuring element was that, for once, terrestrial BBC did not operate on the basis that its audience is made up of halfwits. The Germans spoke German and we read the subtitles.
One petty quibble: it was hard to shrug off the influence of Das Boot, but I don't suppose there's much else you can do aboard a submerged U-boat.
Monday, January 03, 2011
This will be the biggest one-go dramatisation since Compton Mackenzie's Carnival, the first real radio dramatisation (by Holt Marvell) back in 1929. Properly marketed, it could give the radio form a major boost. Otherwise it's another regrettable loss of airspace for original work.
Primeval also crept back onto our TV screens this weekend. I thought ITV had binned it. I always liked it - well done fantasy with great effects. I like it even better now that they've moved Connor and Abby centre stage. Can we hope that the abyssmal subplot about Crazy Helen (the always alienating Juliet Aubrey) has finally disappeared up its own anomaly?