MR F AND I have just watched something on iPlayer. What a wonderful invention. No more swearing and flinging the recorder across the room when we return home to find it’s taped something like Embarrassing Bodies instead of Downton Abbey.
Anyway, the programme we watched was in the Imagine series on BBC1. It was about the playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn and it got me thinking about the way we undervalue – sometimes deride – our home-grown talent.
Ayckbourn has written more than 70 plays, mostly about middle England, which are performed all over the world.
I was hooked decades ago after seeing a production of Bedroom Farce by an amateur company in Uxbridge, and only last month Mr F and I enjoyed one of Ayckbourn’s gems at the Wycombe Swan theatre, the third time I’ve seen Season’s Greetings.
So what is the problem? He’s popular – populist if you want to be sniffy. The literati have tended to write him off, even though (under torture) many will admit his characters are finely observed and his bare, honed writing style can be gripping, funny and incredibly moving. Ayckbourn is not a flamboyant character and his writing is so gloriously understated he makes it look easy. It’s not.
How wonderful then that the luvvie’s luvvie, Peter Hall, a self-confessed admirer, took Ayckbourn to The National Theatre for a season. Even better to hear from a chuckling Sir Peter how the literati practically choked on their bubbly when they heard.
IN THE same week, a new radio station playing 60s music decided to ban Cliff Richard because he was not ‘cool’ enough.
The so-called Peter Pan of Pop (oh dear) was never my cup of tea, and I do cringe when he does his little circular dance to Mistletoe and Wine, but he played a huge part in the early days of teen music in this country and still has a massive following.
Even references to dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi aren’t banned when they fall out of favour, so why should dear old Cliff be airbrushed out of existence? He’s just as much part of history. In a good way though, obviously...