The Bid, Radio 4, Friday
The Frozen North, Radio 3, Thursday
England expects – but has no chance against Fifa
England's failed bid to host the 2018 football World Cup seems like an odd choice for a radio play – all that exposition.
There was indeed a lot the listener needed to know in order to have a clue what was going on in The Bid, and it relied heavily on a voice-over.
Purists baulk at what's often seen as a crutch – and on film narrative elements can be told visually, whereas on radio there isn't that option. (I didn't get where I am today by not knowing that.) There were some unnecessary bits, though: early on, the England bid team finish watching the Panorama programme exposing Fifa corruption that the BBC helpfully scheduled a few days before the vote. Cue voice-over: "Andy Anson, chief executive of England 2018, and Geoff Thompson, the bid team's chairman, respond to what they've seen." There was surely a more economical way of doing it than that.
The cast list was slightly distracting, seeing that John Sessions was playing both the FA smoothie David Dein and the ogreish head of Fifa, Sepp Blatter – in one scene, simultaneously, making you wonder if he recorded them separately or did the whole thing in one take. Even more distracting was the contribution of James Hurn, who nicely carried off the extremely unlikely doubling-up of David Beckham and Prince William.
Expository clunkiness and this oddity apart, it was a story well told. The bid was characterised as being hopeless almost from the start; the play's central thrust seems to be that, in political matters, people rarely say what they mean, and that our bid team was naive and foolish to be taken in by promises of votes.
In the event, England got a disastrous two votes, one of them from their own representative. As the voice-over put it, "Five of the executive committee said they had voted for England. Four of them were lying."
Radio 3's interval talks are often things of beauty, and Thursday's, The Frozen North, was a perfect example. An English-language version of a Finnish programme looking at the changing seasons inside the Arctic Circle, it was a seductive, delicious listen, full of the crunch of feet on snow, and reindeer herders with rich, deep, soothing voices.
A Sami writer, whose name sounded like Gerta Wallop, though I'm sure it's not that, took a poetic approach to the months of unbroken darkness. Electricity changed things, she confirmed (it came in 1973) – but not necessarily for the better. Before that, everything had to be done in the daytime. "Electric light is tiring," she said. She likes to go outside and savour the blackness. "You have more room for your thoughts; you can choose your own way much better in the darkness than in the light."
One of the programme's makers concurred. "Darkness creates philosophy," he said. "Maybe it's easier to live in the moment."
Spring is like a liberation, we heard, and when the light comes back, they get together and they drink. "They are very awake, very alive, very joyful," one man piped up, "and part of that joyfulness is alcohol." I've never experienced days without end, but I couldn't have put it better myself.
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