RADIO / Psyche stripped publicly

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'MISS, MISS]' The little boy was anxious to get Miss Sidebottom's attention. She was asking her class of eight-year-olds about Cupid and Psyche and he wanted to speak. Eventually she relented: 'What, Adam?' In tones of aggrieved innocence he announced, 'I was away'. Only a moment later, when he was told to take Eve's hand and grumbled about it, did his name send out messages.

This tiny scene came from the week's cleverest piece of radio, Psyche (R5), a short play by Sarah Woods. It was set in Room 9 of the Tate Gallery, and narrated by the voice of the psyche of Psyche, as painted by G F Watts. She is inspected by the infant class doing myths, by a stern old Scottish mother teaching her son about dangerous women who cannot contain themselves, by Ron, a knife-wielding Psychepath, and by Mr Hall's sixth-form group.

These iconoclasts are doing a 'Representations of Women' project, which Jason's dad considers pornographic. Jason himself recognises one of the pictures from a tea towel, but is unencumbered by any of the curiosity that sent his namesake adventuring. Poor, anorexic Emma is the only one in the group who really understands Psyche and explains her to little Eve, who begs to go straight home and never, ever to be 18. The play was half an hour of haunting, intricate, subtle magic.

This kind of drama was pioneered by Louis MacNeice, who was the subject of the last of the excellent series Radio Lives (R4). It included snatches of the superb work he produced for the BBC during and after the war. Fast-moving, freewheeling, and intensely poetic, they made me long to hear the full versions.

Personally, MacNeice reminded several people of an intelligent horse. The memories of Nancy Spender, his early love, will be material for archive-miners for years. Interrupting herself with muttered asides, she said ringingly, 'he was very festidious, impeccably dressed (although he had this awful brown suit, can't help that, but still . . .) - never a hair out of place - could be seen occasionally doing it, which one would rather not think of, but still . . .'

This Should Be My Wedding Day (R4) provided a different angle. Elizabeth Ryan's play told the story of Megan, a Yorkshire girl at Oxford who falls for the son of a television gardener. It should have been a marriage made in the Garden of Eden, as she loves horticulture herself, but the boy's father is not what he seems. He is a Polish war hero whose life has made him into a vicious sadist. When he tries to seduce Megan, the son finally gives way and stabs his father. Tense and gripping, full of hinted horrors among the antirrhinums, it was the sort of afternoon play that makes you scorch your ironing in dreadful anticipation. Wonderful.

On Woman's Hour (R4), the bandleader Carla Bley revealed that her beloved only daughter had decided to become a waitress and leave her mother to look after herself. She defused the poignancy with a wry comment: 'Oh, what a confession. Hope no one's listening.' We were, Ms Bley, but we understand.

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