Arts: The Week In Radio

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The Independent Culture
"MY PASSION for you is like an airship", wrote the extraordinary Peggy Ramsay to Simon Callow. Love Is Where It Falls, (Radio 4, Mon-Fri) was his account of the amour fou between this seventysomething theatrical agent and the then 30-year-old actor. "The word `agent'," she used to say, "is the most disgusting in the English language." This has been a gem; Callow read the poignantly written memoir with delicate luxury, like a bishop picking figs. The dinner outing with him, his lover Aziz, and Ramsay was a beautifully succinct set piece: "I found a box of Sam Beckett's letters," Peggy bellows at one point, "so I threw them in the bin." The whole restaurant was aghast, one assumes.

After Callow's epicurean vowels, a little workout. Imelda Staunton cantered through Murder West One: Julie Enfield Investigates (Radio 4, Tuesday), equally at home belting out "I Will Survive" in a pub karaoke, grilling interviewees, and slotting in the requisite plot explication. Good acting and crisp direction hustled the brief but creaky plot along, with a classic final confrontation between the drugged and bound heroine and a devilishly suave villain - the excellent David Collings - about to remove her vital organs to finance his escape to Canada.

Cross Peggy Ramsay with Imelda Staunton and you might well produce Betty Boothroyd. Madam Speaker (Radio 4, Thursday) was a cosy fireside chat with the cocoa-and-Gauloises-voiced Head Matron, an ex-Tiller girl who relaxes by paragliding ("lovely and peaceful"). Despite the occasional gift of teabags and romantic music from American fans, she is never lonely as she watches the MPs in what she calls "my House", and is unflappable throughout their ghastliest hullaballoos. She has suspended the House only once: "that was on a Friday evening, when the Scots got rather difficult". Quite.

After the hurly-burly, a meditation on stillness and stature. Cyril Ramaphosa's description of Nelson Mandela (Out of Darkness: The Triumph of Nelson Mandela, Radio 4, Tuesday) serving cake and pouring tea on the day of his release from captivity, while outside the prison half a million people surged on a broiling, dizzy afternoon, encapsulated the humility of true greatness that places him at the head of the century. The "servant, not the prophet" of his people, Mandela retained immutable dignity through his 27-year incarceration and, to the astonishment of many, an abiding faith in reconciliation above all else. A long wait in the eye of the storm.

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