Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: John Finnemore's Double Acts, Femmes Fatales, in the Studio

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: John Finnemore's Double Acts, Femmes Fatales, in the Studio

Article excerpt

In such times as these, enough to try a man's soul, a dose of John Finnemore is advisable. His brand of comedy, as fans of Cabin Pressure will know, makes you laugh out loud (unlike, I fear, a lot of the programmes in that 6.30 p.m. slot on Radio 4). His quirky stabs at the absurdity of human nature are guaranteed to cheer even the most awful of days because they're so simply drawn, etched in clear, sharp lines, and because they celebrate rather than bewail our frailties; life's tendency to make you fall flat on your face just as you thought you were about to make it big time. In his latest series of John Finnemore'sDouble Acts for Radio 4 (Friday, produced by David Tyler), he puts together two most unlikely characters and spends half an hour constructing a fantasy that's just like those absurd dreams you can have on almost waking, when people you know behave in ways they never would in reality but you've always suspected they might want to.

In this week's episode Queen Victoria, brilliantly conjured up by the lustrous voice of Stephanie Cole, is staying in Osborne House, in retreat from that 'dreadful man' Gladstone who keeps pestering her about the poor and needy. Her peaceful reveries on her beloved Albert are interrupted by the arrival of Mabel (a cheeky Kerry Godliman), who disappoints the Royal We by failing to amuse with what she was supposed to bring with her -- a mechanical parrot. Victoria, after all, is desperate for something, anything, to entertain her and wile away the dreadful tedium of being Queen of all she surveys.

To spell out on paper what Mabel says to the Queen would not do justice to Finnemore's teasing tone, his puncturing of the Royal We, or to the comic skill with which Cole and Godliman negotiate the sparky dialogue. Go listen and be charmed.

Another great radio voice, sultry, intriguing, could be heard on Saturday evening when the American actress Kathleen Turner, star of Body Heat and Romancing the Stone, introduced Femmes Fatales on Radio 4 (produced by Victoria Ferran), which tried to explain the allure of these dangerous women. Why did they emerge in the films of the 1940s, only to disappear in the late 1950s and then reappear in the 1980s? And what makes them so compelling? Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner and co. are celebrated as icons of female power. …

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