Judi Dench on Peter Tinniswood's play
A Very Rare Bird Indeed

The play was made for World Service but I'm not sure when it was broadcast; probably 1997 or early 1998. We'll begin by giving the notes from 'Radio Times' for the 1998 repeat on radio 4:

16 May 98; The Saturday Play. Avril is a woman desperate to find love, but when her husband is delayed en route to the quiet hotel in Wales where she is ensconced for their second honeymoon, she has plenty of time to observe her fellow guests and look for a fantasy lover. Avril: Judi Dench, Maynard: Peter Jeffrey, Morgan: John Moffatt, with Lou Hirsch, Jeff Shankley, Carolyn Jones and Derek Waring. Produced by Judi Dench.

Interview with Judi Dench, broadcast when the play was repeated on Radio 4 Extra, slightly edited for clarity. Judi begins by talking about the character she plays. (Comments by the interviewer shown in bold - Ed).

.....She's a lone woman, married; husband is in the Navy, and in actual fact is meant to be joining her there, on order to patch up their marriage, I suppose ... kind of second honeymoon. She comes amongst a group of people who are all very similar; they are all lonely people.

There are two so-called ornithologists in this hotel, and they see a rare bird on the cliffs, and the man wants to ring up, which means that the next day, all the twitchers will arrive and they will completely over-run the place.

There's a line drawn between my character and this bird which they see. It's a marvellous play. I don't want to say too much because it will give away something that Peter tackles so delicately and wonderfully. You laugh, and at the same time you have a little dart to the heart. He has such wit ... that facility of being able to write two things alongside each other, which is what great writers are about. So whereas you might laugh, you feel the pain of the person too.

Peter Tinniswood is also one of the great radio writers of his generation. Why is this good radio? Why is 'A Very Rare Bird Indeed' such a good listen?

I can't tell until I hear it, but when you open one of his scripts you cannot put it down; you have to read it to the end. I'm an avid radio listener ... one's imagination is so fired by radio, and Peter is just a past master of being able to do that.

World Service is very thrilled that you are doing this, but a lot of people of your stature wouldn't bother with something as ephemeral as radio. Why do you think it's worth doing?

I'm amazed to hear that people don't bother to do radio because I love it so much. I listen to the radio much more than I watch television. I rarely watch television. It's because when you are listening to the radio, you can be doing anything. .. I sew a lot, and my idea of bliss is to have an afternoon where I can sew and listen to a play on the radio, becauseyour imagination works for you; those people can be anything for you and look like anything for you, whereas on TV it's done for you.

My husband Michael Williams is a radio actor and he loves it, and although I think I did radio before he started doing it, I've caught his enthusiasm. I can be a very tall, slim girl on radio!

Does that imply you would do anything on radio?

I would want it to be something I thought was good; I wouldn't do it just for the sake of it. I would do it if I believed in it, but when I see Peter Tinniswood and Judi Dench, I'd start running then, and I would barely read the play.

Your belief in radio is that strong?

Yes, and in those two people.

(Grateful thanks to BH for the recording and for drawing my attention to this interview ..... ND.)

13 Jun 2016


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