Friday, 19 August 2016

Radio Review: 19th August

A delightful pair of plays about the perils of progress

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176The world would be a much better place if, in moments of doubt, we all asked ourselves, ‘What would Alan Plater have said/done?’ His work is suffused with humanity, humour and kindness. Without ever being pious, Plater was a truly good person.

It was a delight, then, to hear Radio 4 Extra repeating his 1999 plays Only A Matter Of Time and Time Added On For Injuries last week. In the first, an Englishman named Fanshawe (James Bolam) becomes lost in 1840s Wales and attempts to find his bearings with the help of an illiterate but sharp farm worker called Meredith (Alan David).

Fanshawe is blazing a trail for the construction of the Great Western Railway, right through the site of a fountain purportedly used by Dic Penderyn, who was martyred after the 1831 Merthyr Rising. Progress cannot and must not be halted, he argues. Nothing is more important than changing the world. Meredith, who has heard horror stories about the railways, disagrees. ‘I’ll tell you what’s more important than changing the world,’ he says. ‘Leaving it the way you found it.’

In the second play, set 150 years later, a Whitehall official called Fanshawe is heading to Wales to arrange an apology to Penderyn and the erection of a plaque commemorating him. The inspector who clips his ticket is called Meredith. They are of course the descendants of the original pair, and the way they work through their shared history is purest Plater, with a huge twist. I won’t spoil it – go to iPlayer and treat yourselves.

Meanwhile, listening to a somewhat harrowing Inside The Ethics Committee (Radio 4, Thursdays, 9am) on the conundrums faced by doctors in cases of extreme premature birth, I was reminded how damned lucky we are to have the brilliant Joan Bakewell.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email: 

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