Friday, January 27, 2017

Quarter 4 Review 8/8

016 Speculative Fiction – New 

And, to conclude Quarter 4 in 2016 (!), Lost in Glencoe could easily have slotted into the old Features slot, as it was more factual than fictional.  Written by Richard Monks and Maggie Ayre, it starred Paul McGann.  The only fictional thing, indeed, was the monologue of Ernie/Peter. McGann played Ernie/Peter as mysterious and apparently unsure of his own fate.  In 1953, Peter—a rather solitary man from a Liverpool background—disappeared in Glencoe in Scotland.  He was a loner, and never went by his name of Peter in Scotland.  Did he have an accident and the body has never been found?  Did he run away with a bus conductress and start a new life in Canada?  Nobody knows and may never know; his relative, Maggie Ayre, has pieced this absorbing mostly-nonfictional drama together with many interviews from relatives and friends. 

Quarter 4 Review - 7/8

Ooh, some wicked stuff in this category this quarter.

The Drowned Village by Berlie Doherty from 1982 was an unusual ghost story in that the ghosts weren’t actually threatening.  A woman returns to where she spent her childhood in Yorkshire, staying with an uncle and cousin.  She wasn’t able to attend the local school and got lured to the lake where she heard the tolling of a church bell from the drowned village. The (synthesizer) score dated it slightly, but it was a refreshing if moody piece. 

I really love the unjustly neglected Dark Fantasy, the product of Scott Bishop, originating out of WKY Oklahoma in the early 1940s.  I was shocked not to find the series in John Dunning; what is any radio drama program if it isn’t in John Dunning?!  Nevertheless, I was able to dig up some information on the fortunes of WKY Oklahoma which was a hotbed of radio endeavours in the late 1930s.  There isn’t a huge amount of information still extant on Dark Fantasy.  Each episode has a regular cast of actors, and while there are definitely themes that run through Bishop’s work, each new episode is more bonkers than the last (which is refreshing; some of them are even scary). “Curse of the Neanderthal” is one of the more unique supernatural thrillers from this era of OTR I can remember hearing, and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was proved wrong.  Once again, it’s Scott Bishop’s weird ability to bring narrative power to strange stories that don’t quite come together but can’t be forgotten once heard.  In this story, a woman is frantically trying to phone her sister in England.  She’s in California with her two male friends—it isn’t clear in what sense they are her friends—who are none-too-gently taunting her until she explains why she’s trying to speak to her sister.  She was in a canyon painting when it got dark, and she didn’t know how she was going to climb out of the canyon again.  She heard some unnerving sounds of night birds (or something) before seeing the figure of her sister in the moonlight.  The figure guided her out and to safety.  Naturally, I assumed this meant her sister had died—as did, subtextually at least, the main character.  However, she spoke to her sister and found she hadn’t been anywhere near California all day.  The sister DIDN’T die (so far as we know).  The woman’s men friends determined she had been visited by a fetch (they used a different word).  In her subconscious mind (apparently) she had painted a strange humanoid figure into her sketch.  The three of them returned to when she had been painting and discovered a Neanderthal skeleton which had evidently been dislodged by a rock fall.  They brought an anthropologist (or actually just some sort of Van Helsing-like professor) to see the skeleton, and they found some Neolithic pictograms which the Professor translated (!) as basically “don’t disturb my bones, or else.”  Interestingly, the Professor didn’t heed the warning and took the bones into the town museum.  I also meant to mention that Dark Fantasy doesn’t have much in the way of special effects; it’s refreshing to hear regional American accents, though.  The story starred Ben Morris, Eleanor Naylor Corrin, Eurelio Scofield, Brad Wayne, and Darrell McAllister.

Victor Pemberton, perhaps now best known for his Doctor Who scripts, wrote some great stuff for radio.  Like his other work I’ve heard so far, Dark from 1978 was histrionic and fevered, sometimes stepping across the line to overwrought but overall carried through by the supreme commitment of its actors.  Honor Blackman played Mrs Virginia Preston, a woman whose husband killed her lover some years before and (this being America) was hanged for it.  Bessie Love played her mother, though it’s never quite clear whether she’s senile or canny.  I was blown away by a very young Nigel Anthony playing at least three characters, all by modulating his voice.  Mrs Preston believes she is being haunted by her dead husband George, and while she claims that she wants him around so that she can tell him she loved him, she also fears that he is trying to kill her.  Simon Elliott is not a professional medium but has evidently captured Virginia’s imagination as the man who can help her exorcise her husband.  None of the characters are particularly likeable and are never predictable; it was like being on a merry-go-round in which you kept waiting for the real, true story to come to light, but kept being passed around, never quite knowing the truth.  It was directed by John Tydeman.

I was quite impressed by the three-part Project Raphael by Jenny Stephens from 2008. In it, MI7 in Yorkshire is trying to get the edge over the Noblovsky Colony, a mafia-esque crime organization who have the first “revenant” spy—someone who they killed and are using as a ghost informant.  Such information drives Finch (Deborah McAndrew) to kill her partner Raphael in the hopes he will come back as a revenant, but she lies from the beginning and says he wanted to die.  Meanwhile, Malcolm Holmes (Aneiran Hughes) has been psychic from a very early age and has found it hard to fit in.  He advertises as a ghost hunter, but unbeknownst to him, MI7 has been watching him since childhood and think he’s the person to bring back a revenant like Raphael to work for them.  He gets tricked into helping them, along with Polly (Emily Chennery), a young journalist whom Malcolm fancies.  This has a great premise, good effects, and features some really dynamic writing.  It was directed by Peter Leslie Wild and also starred Dan Hagley, Sunny Ormond, Syked Ahmed, Sophie Samooda, and John Flitcroft.

Quarter 4 Review - 6/8

012 Contemporary Comedy – Old 

I really fell in love with Bangers and Mash, a gentle comedy by the multi-talented Katie Hims.  I suppose it must be one of her earlier works (from 1999).  Martina (Katherine Harvey), a nun, is taking some time out to decide whether she wants to go on being a nun or wants to leave the convent permanently.  She takes a job in a fancy catering business run by brothers Kingsley and Jimmy (Gerard McDermott) which promptly becomes the humbler Bangers and Mash, a pie catering business, when Kingsley goes missing after he needs to raise £2000 to pay off some shady lenders.  Also working at the shop is Juan José (Roger May), a very funny and idiosyncratic Argentinian going through a divorce.  Eventually they also need a bookkeeper, which is how Carol (Marlene Sidaway)—who comes to do the door dressed as a nun because she’s a Kissogram—joins Bangers and Mash.  They get into a lot of incidents and shenanigans which ring true for anyone who has worked in catering or a small business.  They’re delightful characters.  The actor playing the health inspector, who immediately has a thing with Carol, has the most amazing voice, and you were definitely rooting for them.  You feel a bit more ambiguous about Martina and Juan José—I thought that secretly Martina and Jimmy were going to get together.  It was left very open at the end, clearly anticipating a second series.  Did it happen?  It was directed by Catherine Horn.