I’ve enjoyed The Penny Dreadfuls’ previous radio outings: The Brothers Faversham and More Brothers Faversham, and so was pleased to have tickets to watch the recording of their latest venture, Revolution, on the 15th June. The downside was, as always, the fact that having a ticket doesn’t guarantee getting in, which means that taking a book is essential. This gives you something to do when you arrive outside the BBC Radio Theatre early to get in the queue, in which you have to stand for some time (45 minutes or so) until the doors open; the queue then inches forward as it makes its way through the airport-style security; and then one has to hang around in the holding room for an hour or so, although I am impressed at the reasonableness of the prices at the snack bar run by Aramark.
Come the appointed time everyone files down the corridors and into the Radio Theatre, and then, when everyone is seated, there’s another wait of half an hour or so. This is frustrating, as I would like to wander round and have a closer look at the Art Deco bas-reliefs on the lower walls.
This has been the same for everything I have been to at the BBC, and when it has been a very popular show quite a lot of the latter part of the queue has been turned away. To be fair to the BBC it’s also the same with recordings of TV and radio programmes being made by independent producers, but I’m sure there must be a better method of ensuring a full audience other than disappointing (in some cases) an awful lot of people.
Be that as it may, I hadn’t really taken much notice of the details of what I was going to see, and had assumed that it was the recording of an episode of a new series by the Penny Dreadfuls; it turned out, however, to be an hour-long Saturday Play for BBC Radio 4. After the execution of her father, Louis XVI, his 16-year-old daughter Marie-Thérèse was held in solitary confinement in the Temple Tower, not knowing what had happened to the rest of her family. During this period she had a visit from Robespierre, and, although nothing is know of what was said, this play recreates their conversation, and events of the Terror, with jokes.
What I also had no idea of was that the part of Robespierre was played by Richard E Grant, who seemed to enjoy every minute of it, frequently to be seen laughing at others’ lines; Sally Hawkins played Marie-Thérèse.
The play that was broadcast this afternoon was pretty much what we heard, a few lines were rerecorded at the end, as well as some assorted crowd noise and a ‘Hurrah!’ from the audience, but the play is practically as live. And it’s very funny. Although I would imagine it helps to have a rough idea of what happened during the French Revolution, it’s certainly not essential. It’s on the BBC iPlayer for a week, so hurry up and listen.