DailyAudio goes back to school as we look at comedy-drama series
KING STREET JUNIOR (SERIES ONE)
Starring Peter Davison as Eric Brown and James Grout.
Comedy-drama developed for BBC Radio in 1985 by Jim Eldridge.
Peter Davison is one of many actors I enjoy listening to on audio. Here he plays Mr Eric Brown, a newly qualified school teacher with a class full of juniors. Davison once excelled at playing slightly inept and put-upon stalwarts – All Creatures Great and Small, Holding the Fort, At Home with the Braithwaites – it’s quite a list list but typecasting is nothing new for any actor, and Davison has least approached his with pleasure. Brown is keen to impress in his first job but his over enthusiasm is frequently his undoing.
Each episode centres on a new issue for the school, whether that be the government’s plan to re-deploy teachers to struggling schools, efforts to open a language unit, or dealing with a child who’s abusive home life has led to acts of vandalism in the school. Not many episodes are carried by Brown’s altruistic but misplaced motives but his modern ideas and naivety are often the instigators.
James Grout plays headmaster Mr Beeston. He’s the hilariously constantly put upon one here. Davison is the first name in the credits but it’s Grout that gets most of the best lines. Supporting characters are high-minded and difficult to please Mrs Rudd, pragmatic soul Mr Holliday and overworked secretary Mrs Lewis. All are well drawn played in a nicely understated way by a cohesive cast, bringing to life sparkling, witty scripts where the characters lift from the page. It’s immaculately written by creator Jim Eldridge and equally well performed throughout. This may surprise you.
Radio comedies, especially vintage ones, often suffer from a lack of naturalism and, though I hate to say it, staginess. This certainly surprised me. The rat-a-tat dialogue, the humorous asides and the sound design really sell us on a the time, the place, and the pettiness of the teachers and situations Beeston is forced to deal with.
This isn’t a slow plodder of a sitcom, and neither does it ascribe the idea that studio laughter doth a radio show make. It’s surprisingly modern in many ways and wouldn’t be out of place if it was made today (the series was later revived as King Street Revisited) The humour stands up well because it’s character driven, and the teachers, as well as the pupils, are all easy to engage with.
King Street Junior won’t be the first mentioned when people talk about classic radio comedy, and that’s a shame because it’s solid, entertaining stuff, raising laughs and pouring from the speakers / headphones easily. The humour isn’t designed to challenge you and doesn’t offend. It’s pre-watershed so no sweariness, this is simple, funny stuff that’s aged surprisingly well. As well Mr Davison himself in fact.
We love audio stories here on NoScriptForLife and you can hear some exclusive short funny stories HERE King Street Junior Series 1 is available radioechoes.com.