Life After Scandal 4

I was invited to dinner last night, so I listened this morning on the Net to the abridged version of Robin Soans’ Life After Scandal which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last night as the Friday play.

Robin does verbatim theatre. That is to say he interviews people and then weaves their precise words into a play. It works surprisingly well. I found this play fascinating and ultimately very moving. Not all the characters, even the “victims”, are sympathetic – I wanted to make “Melissa” eat her dog, and agree with the ever excellent David Leigh on Jonathan Aitken – but it still brought me close to tears. It is very hard not to feel sorry for Lord Montagu.

I hope that you feel that my dialogue helped to give the play some context and direction on the political use of scandal, without which it might itself have been in danger of becoming an exercise in prurience.

I have to say that I am rather annoyed by the silly voice and petulant tone the actor, Adrian Scarborough, gave my character. The words spoken do not necessitate that tone, and I feel rather devalued and made fun of. It did not destroy the effect of my words, but certainly lessens them. I understand that on radio, particularly where actors play multiple parts, voice must be strongly differentiated, but I still felt annoyed. I hope I am not being precious.

I am especially delighted to hear Corin Redgrave acting again after his illness (playing Jonathan Aitken – delicious irony). Corin is an immensely kind man. When I was under the storm of a government smear campaign, he phoned out of the blue (I didn’t know him) and invited me to a curry after his one man show. Imagine my happiness when Vanessa then joined us.

The full version of the play opens on 20 September at the Hampstead Theatre and should be well worth seeing.

I presume the BBC link will disappear after six more days. If anyone has the ability to save this with a permanent link, that would be helpful.

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4 thoughts on “Life After Scandal

  • johnf

    I think many of the people had pretty silly accents in that production. It was always done at 90 miles an hour. I've just listened to it on playback. When I attempted last night I heard a part of a play about a woman who was in love with a merman. Did any other listeners have this strange experience? I know the BBC have been mixing up their tapes recently.

  • Craig


    To be fair, a lot of the people being portrayed – Edwina Currie, Christine Hamilton – have strange voices in real life. I still thought the play was good, though.

  • Sabretache

    I have serious issues with BBC over much of its News & current affairs output arising, as I see things, from subservience to the political classes tinged by a woolley, PC, pseudo high-minded world view.

    However, there are many things it does superbly and I thought this was one of them. OK one can nit-pick – and I don't think Craig IS being precious with his criticism of his representation – but they could hardly be expected to get every single nuance of the play's characters 100%.

    Thanks for drawing attention to it.

  • Craig

    I heard it again this morning because Nadira was listening for the first time. I am now a bit more annoyed by the silly voice – like Charles Hawtrey with a lisp. The words were genuinely my own, and devalued by the petulant and childish voice in which they were delivered.

    I think partly what annoyed me was that I do indeed have a congenital speech defect, and there is always a tendency to portray anyone with a speech defect as slightly ridiculous. Just because you cannot pronounce properly does not mean that your words do not have serious intent. I don't mind the defect being reproduced, but not as evidence of unseriousness.

    I can't pronounce r or th. The condition is known as disarthria (which must have been some doctor taking the….) I also can't distinguish between beer, bare and bear.

    People often think that not pronouncing r is an affectation. When I try the result is just a mess, and I often have embarassing conversations where people can't understand me. My name is particularly unlucky in the circumstance. It would not be at all natural for me to change the mess of my attempted r into a w, but if I did so people would perhaps understand better what I am trying to say. Roy Jenkins was always accused of his w for r being a deliberate affectation, and I suspect it was only in that sense, that it was the nearest sound he could consciously make that people readily understood.

    I don't mind now, but I was horribly conscious of this as a teenager and young man. I think it was the remembrance of the constant mickey-taking, some kindly meant, that made me so sensitive to the portrayal in this radio version of the play.

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