Radio: A marriage of twisted minds

The week on radio

Weddings, even in the best- regulated families, have the disruptive potential of a millennium bug. In Victorian novels, a wedding frequently provides the lurid backdrop for a ghastly denouement. Take Lucy in Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor. Tricked into marrying the wrong man, she spoils her party and her white frock by spilling the blood of her groom all over both. Or take poor, plain Jane Eyre, advancing in innocence towards her adored Mr Rochester, only to be thwarted at the altar by Mr Mason announcing the existence of his sister, the first Mrs Rochester.

Jean Rhys was inspired by this latter event to write The Wide Sargasso Sea, which describes Bertha Mason's exotic early life in a "prequel" to Charlotte Bronte's book. In the same way, Ronald Frame has created a credible past for Miss Havisham, the desiccated, abandoned bride who haunts Great Expectations in her tattered, yellowing wedding dress. The result could well be a baggy, voluminous novel. In fact, it is miraculously compressed into a superb 90-minute radio play.

Havisham (R3) is the name of a Kentish brewery family, occupying the shifting social ground between respectability and "trade". According to Dickens, "while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake, you can be genteel as never was and brew" (that apparently careless "as never was" betrays his own ineradicable snobbishness). In the play, Catherine, Mr Havisham's only daughter, returns from her French grandmother's funeral to discover that an uncouth half-brother, the result of her father's second marriage to their cook, has moved in. Immediately he begins to undermine her and to mock her pretensions: "All about the town they talk of your pride, the haughty Miss Havisham."

The clues are all there in Dickens but Frame has fashioned a splendid tale from those dusty hints. The plausible villain, in league with the wicked brother, woos Catherine until she is helplessly besotted. His last-minute defection is worsened by her discovery that he is already married to her own dearest friend, Emma Fielding, a truly great actress, which takes Catherine along the narrow path to her distracted doom without ever (quite) stumbling into risible melodrama. There is a marvellous summer scene in a windmill, when she swooningly gasps "Oh, it's so hot. I must ... unbutton my sleeves." Ridiculously, you find yourself thinking oh yes, I know just how you feel.

Natalie Wheen belongs to a rare breed. Born of Boadicea out of Hereward the Wake, she is bold and blunt, caring not what she says nor whither she wanders. Sometimes, it's on with the sparkly jacket and off to Glyndebourne; sometimes, as on Monday, it's fish out the wellies for a sewage works.

The Influence of Effluent (R4) was originally entitled Oh, Shit: it's a better name. We're prissy about what we produce. Someone once proved that each individual could fertilise a field of turnips annually - but that's not how it works here. Later in the series, Wheen will return to India, where such recycling is commonplace, but this first paddle went down the history trail, via cholera epidemics, the night-soil man and the sludge boat.

She's a robust guide, conducting an in-tunnel interview "in London's breakfast" and enthusing about the addictive fragrance, reminiscent of her local swimming-pool: "It's the same in Calcutta and in Boston," she said, "it reminds you of what the whole human family is up to." It reminded me of the farmer's daughter who complained that her father always talked about manure. Her mother replied that it had taken her years to get him to call it that.

Underneath The Archers (R4), all is not well. Once subtitled "an everyday story of country folk", in the days when the Min of Ag regularly dropped advice about the warble-fly into the sour-dough of the dialogue, now, this enormously popular saga of Nineties village life, as it has become, is enduring one of its recurrent seismic changes.

Most disturbing of the fallen Archers is Shula. For 40 years, she has been all that is pure and righteous. Cruelly widowed when slimy Mark was killed; savagely beaten by Simon Pemberton (you'll remember, even Anna Ford called him, um, a bit of effluent); struggling to raise the sickly Daniel; she has always sported the brightest halo.

Suddenly, she has become the local slapper, pouncing on anything with a pulse and, incredibly, falling for The Doctor, a man whose messy personal habits make the Flintstones seem sophisticated. Whatever next? Will the Grundys take up merchant banking and Brian Aldridge grow designer stubble? Will Shula realise her errors and rekindle her love for Alistair? In the battle of the worthies, my money is on the tidy vet.

HEARD ON AIR

I've had a call, the saddest I've ever had, from a man who lost a cousin in Omagh today.

EDWINA CURRIE

Late Night Currie, R5

Anything I say seems so weak, so inappropriate and so shallow that one is tempted just to be silent.

REV ANDREW SMITH

Sunday Worship, R4

Most people will be happy to embrace him (Clinton) in his tragedy as they have in his triumphs.

Breakfast Programme, R5

I've seen more chemistry between a rock and a walnut than between Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman.

ALAN FRANKS Lorraine Kelly, Talk Radio

Moira's idea of Paradise still involves her spending most of her days with only a bag of dried dog-food to sit on.

JOHN PEEL Home Truths, R4

Bach really annoys me - perfect computer music - he's entirely susceptible to artificial intelligence. Or none at all.

BRIAN ENO Handel in the Strand, Vivaldi on the Phone, R3

I know a lot of you enjoy hearing old TV theme-tunes on a Hammond organ.

NIGEL OGDEN The Organist Entertains, R2

Thatcher will probably go down in history as the greatest peacetime leader.

DEREK HATTON R5

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas