WELCOME to a new series here on No Script for Life.com.
Every day for the next few weeks I will be helping you escape lockdown boredom with review and recommendations on easy to track down audio books. So let’s dispense with the pre amble and jump straight into what I’ve been listening to. Starting off with
MISS MARPLE – AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL
BBC Radio Dramatisation in five parts.
Original broadcast; 1994
Starring June Whitfield as Miss Marple with Maurice Denham, Geoffrey Bayldon and Fredrick Jaeger.
I love Agatha Christie’s books but I never got on with Miss Marple. Something about a nosy old lady who sits and earwigs conversations seemed a bit creepy and sad to me, and the short stories that I’d read starring Miss Marple only confirmed what I already thought – that this was a character who was nothing more than a poor relation to the great, the magnifique Hercule Poirot. Then, quite by random I stumbled upon a repeat of this five part serial on Radio Four whilst driving home one night found myself hooked.
No doubt catching the tale from episode two might just had done it. Sufficiently intrigued by the mystery surrounding the doddery Cannon Pennyfather and the amnesia he suffers one night after setting off from the hotel of the title was enough. I say that, but the following day I had forgotten all about it, and that might well have been it for me and Miss Marple, but two nights later I was driving home and caught most of episode four, by which time the police are investigating the Cannon’s disappearance. Sufficiently intrigued I went home and downloaded the episodes from BBC Sounds to listen to later. And I’m so glad I did.
June Whitfield sealed the deal for me. This was no creepy old lady with “pearl white hair” as had been written in the books. This was a legend of the acting profession, the great, the irreplaceable June Whitfield, she of Terry and June, Absolutely Fabulous and many a Carry On, playing one of literature’s most famous creations. And she absolutely nails it. Fantastic is all I can say, really, Whitfield is so completely the Miss Marple of your imagination (though not mine because as we’ve established the Jane Marple of my imagination is a decidedly creepy old girl), she is reticent, slightly bumbling, demure and just about the fiercest intellect in any room she finds herself. Understated in some ways, but in others a fireball of dead pan wit and ingenuity. I can’t rate her performance high enough.
The cast list reads like a who’s who of the stage, screen and speaker so the script takes flight from the first few minutes and soars high for the next two and a half hours until it is satisfyingly guided into land.
It’s a mystery story so you do have to pay attention and, as is typical of this long form adaptation, there are a lot of characters that come and go which can get confusing if you’re crashing about with dishes and plates in the washing up bowl whilst you listen. But what kind of philistine am I for washing up while listening to this!? Best enjoyed with a glass of wine with your feet up, this is the kind of radio drama your Gran would listen to, and none the worse for it. A lively tale, brought to life by a first rate cast, I recommend this.
Come back tomorrow when I’ll be looking at Wind in the Willows read by Richard Briers.
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