Spoken Word

<i>Ladies of Letters - and More </i>Read by Patricia Routledge and Prunella Scales (BBC, 3hrs 20mins, &pound;8.99)
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The Independent Culture

I never heard this apparently hugely popular Radio 4 Woman's Hour series, and, because of a title which suggests lavender and old lace, I almost failed to listen to one of the most engaging and well-produced spoken word releases of the year. But I noted the enthusiasm with which a friend who'd heard the odd episode grabbed at it, and gave it a try. Arsenic and old boots are in fact more the flavour of this hilarious fictional correspondence between two sixtysomething women who meet at a wedding. They're not related - Vera was helping out the caterer - but when Irene writes to say how much she'd enjoyed meeting her, letters begin. Authors Lou Wakefield and Carole Hayman succeed brilliantly in building up the characters of To-The-Manor-Born-wannabe Irene and the earthy, enthusiastic Vera; and Prunella Scales and Patricia Routledge excel at bringing them to life. Their offspring all become part of a hectic story that features snaffled boyfriends, child protection officers, drugs and dingos. Hidd

I never heard this apparently hugely popular Radio 4 Woman's Hour series, and, because of a title which suggests lavender and old lace, I almost failed to listen to one of the most engaging and well-produced spoken word releases of the year. But I noted the enthusiasm with which a friend who'd heard the odd episode grabbed at it, and gave it a try. Arsenic and old boots are in fact more the flavour of this hilarious fictional correspondence between two sixtysomething women who meet at a wedding. They're not related - Vera was helping out the caterer - but when Irene writes to say how much she'd enjoyed meeting her, letters begin. Authors Lou Wakefield and Carole Hayman succeed brilliantly in building up the characters of To-The-Manor-Born-wannabe Irene and the earthy, enthusiastic Vera; and Prunella Scales and Patricia Routledge excel at bringing them to life. Their offspring all become part of a hectic story that features snaffled boyfriends, child protection officers, drugs and dingos. Hidden behind the irresistibly funny dialogue, there is plenty of sharp human comment.

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