Following on from yesterday ‘s piece by Tom Hollingworth on the relative abilities of female presenters I would like to champion Sue MacGregor, in my opinion the best female broadcaster ever. She cut her teeth on the Today programme. She is so versatile that she presented the book programme A Good Read and now my favourite current radio programme The Reunion. The Reunion examines a political, artistic, tragic event of the past and reunites the central characters.
Yesterday’s broadcast featured the Talking Heads monologues of Alan Bennett. These you may recall were a series of 12 short plays when only one actor or actress spoke directly to the audience. They were exquisitely crafted as you became aware that the characters were tragically flawed, in one case she committed a murder. Thora Hird, Stephanie Cole, Patricia Routledge and Penelope Wilton all performed to an exce3ptionally high standard and the last three appeared on the programme along with the producer Tristam Powell and Alan Bennett himself. Sue MacGregor’s Today grounding enables her to ask the right questions. There is tendency for actors to become self-indigent self-absorbed luvvies but Sue ensures they stick to the central theme of how and why these short plays were so successful and the technical aspects of keeping a one-hander engaging. Alan Bennett is always good value with his delightful self-deprecation and gentle humour. I remember seeing his Forty Years On a delicious parody of Britain in the sixties satirised as Albion House, a decaying private prep school, with John Gielgud as the bumbling headmaster. It had some witty literary parodies too. I recall one on John Buchan. “Is he brilliant? ” “The second most brilliant man in Europe, but like many he crosses that small bridge that divides lunacy from insanity”. I have seen most of Talking Heads and enjoyed them thoroughly. Sir David Hare cited Waiting for Godot, Look Back in Anger, The Birthday Party and Saved as the four most important plays of the twentieth century. All of them he added attracted poor reviews. He did not include any Alan Bennett play. I guess he is too popular and accessible to lesser intellects.