Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Baxter's Voyage, Jacques Brel, Amelie Nothomb, Charles and Mary Lamb

To note three BBC dramas and a documentary I have been listening to recently.

Voyage, a series of five half-hour episodes, based on Stephen Baxter's novel where NASA goes for Mars rather than the Space Shuttle, adapted, produced and directed by Dirk Maggs, is not taxing listening. One twitches a bit at some of the accents, but Laurel Lefkow as the lead character, Natalie York, is consistently believable. The third episode, which covers the testing of the Nerva rocket, is particularly good, but the fifth and final one, covering the eventual landing on Mars, rather rushes the actual journey. But it is satisying enough.

Marc Almond's documentary, Behind the Brel, deeply annoyed me until well into the first of its three half-hour episodes by consistently referring to Jacques Brel as a French musician - not just as a French-language performer but actually French. I wonder if this is a widely held perception in France? (Does the average British TV viewer realise that Terry Wogan and Sandi Toksvig are in fact from another country?) Anyway once Almond admitted that Brel was Belgian, and indeed gave some time to some of his more Belgian songs (Mai 40, qui ramenait sa belgitude, for instance) I was prepared to forgive him. There was perhaps an inevitable concentration on the English translations rather than the French originals (but, gosh, compare Le Moribond with Seasons in the Sun).

Staying with Belgians for a moment, The Face of the Enemy, a radio play adapted from Amélie Nothomb's novel Cosmétique de l'Ennemi by Adam Thorpe, is a story of a bloke waiting for a plane who is accosted by a stranger who turns out to have intimate knowledge of his personal secrets. I wasn't hugely impressed, but I think Nothomb may simply not be for me. The play could easily have been compressed to a half hour rather than a full hour. I did like Charlie Norfolk as the protagonist's dead wife though.

I greatly appreciated Carlo Gébler's ninety-minute play Charles and Mary, about the Lambs who wrote the Tales from Shakespeare. I had sought it out partly from coming across the Lambs' story in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and also because their Tales are quite high on my reading list at the moment. And you inevitably wonder what exactly is going through the mind of an author, who himself has a famous mother, who writes a play in which the protagonist stabs her mother to death in a moment of delirium. But I must say that, having gone through the experience of committing a member of my own family to permanent residential care, the play struck home in a way I had not expected, and I cheered for the Lambs' literary and personal success in adversity. Out of these four audios this is the one I strongly recommend. 
Tags: audio
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