To become a castaway on a desert island may be regarded as a misfortune, but to become a castaway more than once looks like carelessness.
Not that the actor and writer Stephen Fry seems too concerned. Having appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs more than a quarter of a century ago, the 57-year-old makes a return to the show that dispatches guests to a faraway island armed with eight favourite records, a book and luxury item.
For the vast majority of guests, the trip to the island is a one-way voyage. George Clooney, Sir Rich-ard Branson, J K Rowling, and five British prime ministers are among the thousands of guests who have been banished from these shores never to return.
But Fry’s reappearance sees him join an elite group of around 250 people who have appeared on the radio programme more than once since it first aired in 1942. The list of serial castaways includes the show’s creator, Roy Plomley, as well as Victoria Wood, Sir Terry Wogan and Joanna Lumley. Two guests – Sir David Attenborough and the late Arthur Askey – have appeared no less than four times.
Asked why some guests are allowed a repeat trip to the island, given that there is no shortage of interesting castaways in the world, a BBC spokesperson said: “I’m a bit perplexed as to why you’re going down this route.”
He added: “Stephen Fry previously appeared on Desert Island Discs 27 years ago, and, as listeners will have guessed, we don’t actually banish our guests to a desert island. On occasion, we invite castaways to make a repeat appearance because we consider their lives, careers and achievements have moved on considerably since the first interview.”
Back in 1988, when he was first banished to the island at the age of 31, Fry was content to talk about how naughty he was as a child and his love of being a student at Cambridge. The only suggestion of inner turmoil was the luxury he chose at that time – a suicide pill.
In the programme broadcast today, Fry opts for a set of paints and an easel as his luxury. His favoured music remains constant, with his tracks of choice again mainly classical or operatic.
Fry reveals that he lives in torment, telling of his “need to be a part of the world and connect but I have this other pull, which is to be apart from it, and I think that’s what often tears me apart – because I’ve never joined in.”
When it comes to things he is “hopeless at” he reels off a list including music, dancing, performing, sport, and – just to make sure he’s not missed anything out, adds “everything”. He claims: “I can’t do almost anything except use words.”
‘Desert Island Discs’ is on BBC Radio 4 on 21 June at 11.15amReuse content