The Week In Radio: No place like Rome as the emperor strikes back

When you're freezing cold, financially anxious, and face weeks of trudging through aisles of iPod socks and novelty candles, what you really need is comfort. Downton Abbey was superlative comfort telly, a great plum pudding of heart-warming clichés and stereotypes done to perfection. But radio has its comfort-listening too.

Radio 4 usually rustles up a spot of Dickens, and indeed there is a spoof A Christmas Carol lined up for Christmas Eve, but until then, what could be more welcome than I Claudius, Robert Graves's 1934 saga of the Roman emperors?

The first comforting thing for people of a certain age is that it reminds them of their youth, specifically the 1976 television version with Derek Jacobi doing a masterclass in stammering. Robin Brook's excellent version re-introduces Jacobi in the role of Augustus, Claudius's step-grandfather while Tom Goodman-Hill plays Claudius with slightly less of a stammer, which is probably just as well given it's radio. Harriet Walter's Livia is magnificently scheming and nothing like your traditional granny. The first episode, in which Claudius grows up alternately scorned or ignored, was proof that radio drama can be just as appealing as event TV, leaving you determined to make a date with Classic Serial for the next five weeks and possibly force your children to listen too.

This week's enjoyable Woman's Hour drama, Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, is also archetypal comfort fodder, stretched out over two weeks and promisingly set in Hollingford, "a small town where everyone knew everyone's business". The opening gives a clue to what we're in for. "In that town there was a house, in that house there was a room and in that room there was a bonnet." And in that bonnet, of course, there was a costume drama. This being radio, the costumes are all in the acting, but the story of Molly Gibson, motherless doctor's daughter taken up by the folk from the big house, follows a narrative arc so familiar we could probably recite in our sleep. Will Molly get to marry Roger? Gaskell died before finishing this, so Theresa Heskins got to make up her own ending, but my hunch is that it will end happily.

Should we feel guilty about this yearning for the rose-tinted? Is the historical soap opera just easy escapism? And does it matter if it is? I don't think so, especially given how much there is, in terms of drama alone, to offset it. There was a remarkably good From Fact to Fiction about last week's student march. Janice Okoh's Carnival performed a neat reversal in having single mother Lorraine, played by Clare Perkins, trying to persuade her daughter Nicole (Deeivya Meir) to join the march rather than stay in with her feckless boyfriend. Both the dialogue and the acting were so sharp, it felt like eavesdropping. More to Okoh's credit was the fact that it was plainly completed in 24 hours flat, presumably with an awful lot of black coffee.

And if you really want to throw a dampener on things, there's always Philip Larkin, patron saint of unhappy endings, who was the subject of a sensitive tribute by David Walliams and Andrew Motion. It's not that you don't expect a comedian to be erudite, but Walliams's engaging enthusiasm was a revelation. Like many of us, he lies in bed awake thinking of "Aubade" – surely the least comforting poem about death in the English language – and he had Larkin's "First Sight" read at his wedding. Being a comedian however, meant he saw the funny side of Larkin too. And Larkin does demand a bit of levity. Larkin's father, said Motion, was an admirer of Hitler, who kept a model of the Führer on the mantelpiece which performed a Nazi salute when you pressed a button. "Well, we've all got one of those," Walliams quipped.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
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.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower