If your name's Roger, then the job's yours

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The Independent Culture
With the start of the autumn term, new staff-lists have been drawn up. It's clear from them that the name of the moment is Roger. In the last couple of weeks, Roger Lewis has taken charge of Classic FM, Roger Wright has become the new Controller of R3 and Roger Mosey is the hot tip for Grand Supremo of BBC Radio, a job previously held by Matthew Bannister. Even this last chap was commonly - that is by R1's Marc and Lard - always known as Roger, though his ability to run a four-minute mile is questionable. Only time will tell what the Rogering of radio will achieve.

There is no room here for a Sam. Sam Younger, who survived as Chief Executive of the World Service when John Birt introduced his "reform" of the news services - without having consulted him - has suddenly departed to, er, pursue other interests. Younger was a good man in an impossible situation. His replacement is Mark Byford, said to be a people's person from the regions. He'll have to expand his horizons.

Meanwhile the Jims soldier on. After the departure of Debbie Thrower earlier this year, Jim Moir, at R2, is losing another of his stalwart day-time presenters. John Dunn's gentle and perceptive interviews have lent a touch of class to the early evenings: with his replacement by Johnnie Walker, a whisky is substituted for a homophonic poet. And James Boyle is seeing people in his study about the syllabus for next year's R4. The rumour is that the sillier quizzes may be out and more serious teaching introduced.

One instructive lesson that Boyle should retain is Between Ourselves (R4) in which Olivia O'Leary introduces pairs of people who have undergone similar experiences. This week, Maria Bentley-Dingwall and Georgina Ellis recalled the hangings of their uncle and mother, respectively; both trials seem to have been faulty - hasty and failing to take into account the mental state of the murderers. Derek Bentley's conviction has been quashed: Ruth Ellis's stands. Bentley's case now forms part of an A-level syllabus.

O'Leary asked all the right questions: do they care about the people who are shot? Why did they not simply dissociate themselves from their relatives? Yes, they said, they certainly did - and, quite properly, they cared about their own families: neither could bear the thought of the re- introduction of the death penalty.

Playtime, happily, is still sacrosanct: innovative ideas abound. On Monday afternoon, Sue Wilson produced a play in which Julia McKenzie played Lisa, a successful teacher, awakening from an operation to find herself stone deaf. The Sounds of Silence (R4) are noisy, invasive and disturbing. Thrilled, Lisa hears a hospital trolley approaching with shrieking wheels but when the trolley stops, the shrieking does not. Her tinnitis recurs unpredictably to plague her. She acquires a hearing aid, which painfully exaggerates surrounding sounds while leaving words indecipherable. She tries to learn lip-reading, and hears "pleased to see you" as "pissed as a newt" - but, agonizingly, nobody finds that amusing.

Little by little, her own voice assumes an insistent, maddening monotone, while her (spoken) thoughts stay lively and inflected, we suffer the frightful noises in her head. Her husband directs her to irritating newspaper articles about "amazing deaf, blind, legless, armless, headless women who climb Everest in wheelchairs and lip-read in 17 languages before breakfast." Then he leaves her. At this point the playwright, Jill Truman, probably desperate for a resolution, introduces some angelic deaf people who use sign language and offer Lisa new hope. The happy ending seemed implausible, yet this perceptive play illustrated the horrible isolation of deafness - through the medium of sound.

Later that evening, in The Proposal (R4), Emily Woof, as both writer and performer, took the art of the monologue even further. The narrator is about to leave for Australia to star in a lucrative, unsavoury film: meanwhile her lover proposes marriage and God disposes of her grandmother. The resultant torrent of words is a river-in-spate of consciousness, culminating in a bizarre scene in which "Miss Condor," an Australian torturer whips her, so that she can more convincingly perform in the film. As she endures the thrashing, she weeps for the sad little party round her granny's grave, at home in Lancaster.

Woof speaks urgently, transmuting behaviour and experience into activity of heightened significance, whispering an immediate, interior diary, in which the dark is a place of terror and dreams have their own validity.

Introducing "Mr Sandman", the bringer of dreams, Iain Burnside presented a typically eclectic edition of Voices (R3). Incidentally, this is a great series, well worth catching. Burnside discovered dreamy songs from Sibelius to Schoenberg to Gilbert and Sullivan. A recent R4 programme interviewed the original Lucy, the one in the sky with diamonds, so maybe Burnside was wrong about it being a hymn to LSD. But you couldn't fault him on an extraordinary homage to a Los Angeles dream-team. All the players rhymed: Wes Parker, Norm Larker; Nick Egan, Phil Regan; Morris Wills, Jim Fairy (oops? no, hold on, it's a longer line), Norm and Larry Sherry.

"Why," asked Burnside after this eye-narrowing, toe-wrinkling, jaw-dropping, neck-clenching, mind- bludgeoning musical equivalent to runny ice cream, "don't they write songs like that for West Ham?" For that, Burnside, you get a detention.

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