Over the years, the BBC has broadcast many plays which stick in the memory, and some of the best are comedies. I'm not talking here about comedy series, but one-off plays which are original, witty and which stand up to repeated listening, in the way that "Laurel and Hardy" shorts can be watched time after time. Here are a few favourites.....
NOT A DRUM WAS HEARD....1959
by Hentry Reed. Wonderful satire. Deryck Guyler as General Gland is priceless. ...Roger Bickerton.......... Henry Reed is the writer who came up with "Naming of Parts", a poem about taking a rifle to bits, which many of you will know...
Events at the Salamander Hotel....1975
A wonderful, hilarious play about a hard-up travelling saleman and his cronies
who evolve a novel strategy for cutting their accommodation costs when times are
difficult....Stephen Thorne is the narrator, and there is a very strong supporting
The last ride of Walter Enderby, Motorist and Amorist....1978
Another treat; Walter Enderby is an old buffoon who is opinionated, selfish, a ladies' man, and a master of getting his own way...will he ever get his come-uppance? Geoffrey Beevers plays the hapless young man forced to be his chauffeur. Another memorable play. "TheNonconforming Nonconformist" (1977), also by Parkinson, is in a similar style and very, very funny.
OPERATION LIGHTNING PEGASUS....1981
by Alick Rowe. The story of what really happened in the back of the original
THE KAMIKAZE GROUNDSTAFF REUNION DINNER....1981
by Stewart Parker. I hesitated in classifying this as a comedy. It's superbly acted, stars John le Mesurier and John Baddeley, and shows what boys will get up to even when they're well into middle age....but there's no getting away from the fact that it's extremely funny.
The journal of Vasilije Bogdanovic.... 1982
By Alan Plater. An Eastern European footballer comes to England....he's...hopeless..........
THE CLEVEREST MAN AT OXFORD, 1983
Another play with Geoffrey Parkinson as one of the characters...
Geoffrey Beevers played Geoffrey Parkinson, studying at a college in
Oxford for a diploma amongst a collection of misfits... with Julia Hills as
Esther, Meg Davies as Lizzie, with Nigel Anthony, Patrick Malahide,
Christian Rodska, Geoffrey Bateman, Peter Copley, Bill Wallis, Peggy-Ann
Wood, Joe Anderson, Nina Holloway, Daphne Herd, David Ponting, Victoria
Wickes, Michael Drew. Directed in Bristol by Shaun McLaughlin.
DON'T COME INTO THE GARDEN....1983
by Alan Melville. You hate gardening, and moving house? This is the play for you.
by Alan Plater...a middle aged architect has his world disturbed when there is an attempted takeover by a thrusting young newcomer.
A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY....1983
by Max Williams. Antics involving some drunken Rugby players on their annual outing, a guy who's incapable of keeping his hands off the ladies, and a devious antiques dealer....
THE BIGGER THEY ARE....1985
by Wally K. Daly. There's a Mafia plot to defraud the Bank of England which is foiled by two city gents, a gang of prisoners and a Prison Governor. In the style of the "Carry On" films. Excellent casting; this is probably the best of Wally K's "Burglar" plays.
THE WIND BEAR....1986
by David Ashton. A wonderful comic detective story, with an absent-minded taxidermist as the main character. Has he murdered his wife, or hasn't he? With Bernard Hepton and Norman Jones
CRISP & EVEN, BRIGHTLY....1987
by Alick Rowe. The unlikely Christmas tale of Wenceslas, his mother, a servant boy, and some ungrateful serfs.
A TOUCH OF DANIEL....1987
by Peter Tinniswood. An "Uncle Mort"
story; too well-known to discuss here. Liz Goulding, Stephen Thorne.
CALL IT A CANARY....1989
by Peter Tinniswood...sequel to "A Touch of Daniel". Stephen
Thorne as Uncle Mort.
PRINCE OF THIEVES....1987
by Rod Beacham.... is a light-hearted thriller rather in the vein of THE LADYKILLERS. Peter Vaughan presents to the life the sly and self-regarding Prince, the criminal mastermind of a successful plan to steal £3M in gold bullion. He's akin to Ronnie Barker's TV character, but, in the end, much more unpleasant. This doesn't disturb the comic balance of the play, which is consistently enjoyable and has the advantage of not only Peter Vaughan's performance but also a bravura display of uninhibited eccentricity by June Tobin, as the gang's reluctant landlady.
The village fete....1987
by Peter Tinniswood.
This plague was the precursor or of the various Winston serials
and revolved around the talented, sexy, but uncouth Winston
Hayballs - played by the incomparable Bill Wallace -
and his relationships with the members of a dysfunctional
family held together (just about) by elder daughter Nancy, after
they moved from London to a ramshackle house in the country.....Nigel Cropper
by Perry Pontac. The bank manager and the Eskimo....
THE POINT OF THE STORY....1990
by Perry Pontac. All Perry Pontac's plays are fun. He dispels gloom and invites listeners to relish absurdity and delight in his wit.
(...Barry Pike)This one is a story within a story within a story and back again......
A rather whimsical play by Alan Bennett, bringing together Kafka and
his biographer Max Brod with a modern Kafka expert and his bored
wife. It contrives to present valid critical insights into
Kafka's life and work through the medium of an anarchic comedy.
The radio version knocks spots off the recent stage revival which
suffered from ragged direction and some poor performances......Barry Pike
WORK IN PROGRESS....2000
by Gary Brown....an incompetent actor finds himself working with an award winning director and eventually ends up stabbing him during a rehearsal.
By Mike Stott, and starring Johnny Vegas. Produced by Bruce Hyman; one of the best comedies of the year.
THE COLOUR NORMAN....1995
By Stephen Dinsdale and Jerome Vincent. A sience student invents a new colour, and is besieged by all and sundry, anxious to get their hands on it. It's called .... Norman.
The Magnificent Andrea ....2011, rpt 2013
By Nigel Planer. A superb comedy drama - one of my 'picks of the year'. A once-well-known journalist attends his ex-wife's funeral, goes back to the house afterwards (which is in fact the place he once paid for) and ends up clashing with his old flame's partner. But although they are like chalk and cheese, each finally decides that the other is not all bad, and that Andrea has made both of their lives better. Barry - Roger Allam, Nigel - Nigel Planer, Tania / Receptionist - Sally Orrock, Taxi driver - Brian Bowles, Preacher - Jane Whittenshaw, George - Sam Dale, Sarah/Waitress - Joanna Monro, Ambulance driver - Stuart McLoughlin. Producer Peter Kavanagh.
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