Only three things make this play feel dated: the fact that the newspaper that so aggravates Jimmy cost him ninepence, that the pubs observe opening (and closing) hours, and that anyone still cares about ironing. Tara Fitzgerald's suffering Alison makes a crackling foil for Douglas Hodge's tortured, torturing Jimmy, but everything about this play is twisted as tight as a garrotte: even the trumpet, in the hands of none other than the great Humphrey Lyttelton, wails its despair like a banshee.
One thing I hadn't noticed before is the fact that Jimmy's savage rage began when he was 10 and had to watch his father die. Porter senior was mortally wounded in the Spanish Civil War, a bloody conflict that was all too soon subsumed into the larger disaster of the Second World War. The writer Kevin Toolis introduced a collection of first-hand accounts of the war in Spain to begin a series called Witness (R4). The linking script was well-written, but Toolis read it in a declining monotone, emphasising odd little words, like "newly", "almost", and "behalf", reminiscent of the enjoyably dreadful Eldorado: perhaps he was trying too hard.
In contrast, the extracts of the participants' stories, clearly selected for their unexpectedness and immediacy, were beautifully read. Many soldiers in the Republican army were, or were to become, famous writers, like Laurie Lee - or George Orwell, whose account of being shot through the neck was, er, transfixing. Some lines from Stephen Spender gave the programme its title, A Better Target For A Kiss. Spender wrote of seeing a boy lying dead under an elm tree: young, silly and - in the context of victory or defeat - unimportant.
A black nurse, sailing out to those battlefields, was insulted by her surgeon-commander who refused to sit at table with a "nigger wench". Happily, the co-owner of Cunard overheard and promoted her to first class. We tend to imagine that such embarrassing and offensive incidents would no longer occur, but Patricia Williams knows better. This week she delivered the last of her Reith Lectures (R4) on the subject of race. It is incomprehensible to me that she has attracted so much flak for these talks.
She has been accused of having a boring voice, of being obscurely pedantic and (often by the same critics) of larding her talk with too many chatty anecdotes. This is nonsense. The fact is that her delivery is easy on the ear, her style is eloquent and clear, her language is careful and her message is important.
Professor Williams hopes that discussion of her ideas will continue around dinner-tables, that it will result in little shifts of empathy. She knows that there are no snappy solutions, that racism is a subtle, perceptual matter: she asks that we should observe its iniquity but not concede its inevitability. She wants us to summon up the generosity to "scrunch down a few inches in the family pew and make room for the funny- looking newcomer". She is right, and we should be grateful to her for what she has so elegantly and, damn it, inoffensively, expressed.
There can be few places in the world as susceptible to racial and religious bigotry as Jerusalem, scene of Via Dolorosa (WS). Alison Hilliard followed the 14 Stations of the Cross along this famous route, past armed Israeli guards and into the church of the Holy Sepulchre, in company with Franciscan friars and leaders of local Christian communities. At the eighth, a Palestinian identified herself with the weeping women of Jerusalem; at the 11th, the Armenian Patriarch stressed the difficult necessity of forgiveness; at the 14th, site of the only empty tomb inside a cathedral, anywhere, an Anglican spoke of hope. It was a moving, sobering journey.
Now for something completely different, and kind of frightful. In spring, the British move house, or at least go nosing around houses on the market. Viewing Essential (R4) is a series following four such sales. It's packed full of terrible people: there's Maggie, who loves pink -("It calls to me and says, 'Here, Maggie, you're home'"; the newly-out gay who has left his wife and is setting up in a one-bedroom flat or, ho ho, knocking shop; Joanna, the terrifying estate agent, who insults her clients with every breath; the sad, abandoned Laura, who might make pounds 200,000 from the sale of the marital home but may have to sell her beloved grand piano.
The truly awful thing about this prurient invasion into privacy is that - I can scarcely bear to write this - as you get to know them, you begin to sympathise with some of these people. When a viewer reels back aghast from Maggie's pink boudoir or Laura sighs at having to vacuum up the latest messy footprints, I felt wounded for them. I think I may be going inexcusably soft.
Determined to get a grip, I turned to Science Now (R4). Peter Evans came up trumps. He was at the NEC in Birmingham, asking people for their favourite inventions. Velcro, Post-Its and the jet-engine received grown-up accolades, but the children were the best.
A sporty boy was longing for someone to invent luminous guy-ropes so that he could stop falling over his tent at night, but a little slob of a teenager didn't want anything new. She just needed to tell us all how happy she was to have a remote control on her CD player. Now she won't ever have to get out of bed. Happy Easter.Reuse content