Arts: The Week In Radio

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The Independent Culture
TAKE A brief census of the children's picture books in any bookshop, or wander into the cuddly section of a toyshop, and it is clear that in recent years a revolution has taken place. Bears still top the league, and mice, cats, dogs, rabbits and elephants all show well, but pigs have exploded: books about Wibbly Pig, Babe, Juice the Pig; The Piggy Book; Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore; numerous retellings of The Three Little Pigs (including The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig); innumerable fluffy pink confections, wreathed with fatuous smiles, and with ears fetchingly flopped over one eye... Somewhere along the way, pigs have got cute.

Why this has happened was one of the topics tackled by Marina Warner in These Little Piggies (Radio 4, Tuesday), a brief history of pig-person relationships. Throughout history, the pig has had an unusually rich symbolic role - the thing that Odysseus's crew were turned into by Circe, the thing that Jews don't eat (and hence, according to one of Warner's sources, a thing it became a Christian duty to eat), the name you throw at the people you really don't like, a paragon of gluttony and bad hygiene.

This was a meaty subject, and Warner let practically no part of the animal go to waste. Of course, pigs throw out a lot of slurry, and so did this programme at times. A scientist expressed his unease over using pig organs for transplant into humans - he was concerned with tissue rejection and crossover viruses: "This acute anxiety about maintaining the border between the beast and the human has preoccupied cultures since ancient times," Warner announced, failing to spot the difference between cultural anxiety and perfectly sensible scientific scepticism. All the same, a programme to leave you grunting with pleasure.

Snouts in the trough in Waiting for the Earth to Move (Radio 4, Friday), a racy play about Nick Leeson and the collapse of Barings. John Fletcher's script was necessarily simplistic, which had its annoying side - Leeson's urge to make big deals was reduced to pure machismo, "big swinging dicks" on the trading floor pulling off enormous "shags". The picture of City bankers (represented by Richard Briers) as greedy upper-class idiots who spend all their time in the crush bar at Covent Garden was too exaggerated to be persuasive.

But, keeping it in the black, Andrew Lincoln's central performance was a masterclass in the downbeat and uninflected, and turning such a complex affair into a swift, listenable drama was making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

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