The station that won't stop letting its hair down

RADIO: In which Kenny Everett meets Richard Wagner, and Radio 3 launche s a dogged attempt to convince Robert Hanks it's a happening kind of place

There aren't, just off the top of my head, any obvious connections between Kenny Everett and Richard Wagner. You could categorise them both as icons of the right, if you count Everett's appearances at Conservative Party conference, waving a pair o f crutches and saying he was Michael Foot; but this is pretty thin. So the least you can say for Matt Thompson's Ringlets (Radio 3, Wednesday) is that in turning the Ring Cycle into a homage to Everett's Captain Kremmen it is making a considerable imagin ativeleap.

The debt to the original Kremmen series, broadcast on Capital Radio in the Seventies, is easy to spot: the five-minute, comic-strip format, the fact that one man (David Holt) does all the voices - some of the voices even sound like direct lifts from Everett's repertoire - the extreme condensation of action, the funny noises and constant excursions into bathos. But while it's always nice to see a radio programme with a sense of tradition, you do frequently find yourself wondering what the point of Ringlets is.

The drawback is the huge discrepancy between the level of allusion and the level of humour - I may be wrong, but there cannot be many people who take an interest in Wagner and are also going to be impressed by lines such as : "Curse on the Ring. Whosoever possesses it shall be pretty miserable and die much sooner than they would've. Nyaah."

Come to that matter, not many Kenny Everett fans would get a lot out of this - his best radio material was both a touch wilder and a touch more subtle. Ringlets relies too heavily on the notion that because Wagner's works are far too long, it's funny to do them short. I don't say that it's not funny; just that if it is funny, then it's to a very limited constituency.

Thompson did much the same sort of thing for Radio 1 earlier in the year, with a series of one-minute lives of the great scientists, so it is possibly unfair to draw a wider moral from Ringlets. But it is tempting to read it as a symptom of the crisis ofconfidence at Radio 3.

At times, the station comes across as a rather serious, egg-headed schoolboy who wants desperately to join in the jokes with all the other chaps but doesn't know quite how to go about it. On Sunday evening, for example, there was a horribly facetious trail for the week ahead, in the form of a trial in which an insubordinate counsel irritated the judge by calling Radio 3 programmes as evidence. The intended implication must have been that Radio 3 is one of those happening things that judges are too comically fuddy-duddy to know about, like Snoop Doggy Dogg, say, or Pot Noodles, but it all felt embarrassingly unhip.

It was a relief, after this, to arrive at the unrelieved gloom and blood thirstiness of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Radio 3, Sunday) part of the "Operama" season of dramatisations of the stories behind operas. Stephen Mulrine's adaptation of Nikolai Leskov's story was elegantly done, and the acting was mostly good, particularly Blythe Duff as the ruthless farmer's wife who does away with husband, father-in-law and a small, extremely pious child so that she can carry on having it away with her husband's steward.

The production was good enough to sweep you along if you were prepared to let it, apart from the scenes involving the small boy - quite clearly an elderly man trying it on, and you couldn't blame the lovers for putting a pillow over his face at the earliest opportunity. It was just a shame that the play was overshadowed by the New York Metropolitan's performance of Shostakovich's opera, broadcast on Saturday night - the effect was like getting surtitles on a 24-hour delay, and the sense of anti-climax was emphasised by having Shostakovich's music injected at climactic moments, which seemed like an admission that the drama couldn't work by itself.

Again, it is the lack of confidence that is so disturbing. It sometimes feels as though what Radio 3 really needs is a pat on the back and the reassurance that we still like it. Well, we do, don't we?

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent