People talk about Edi Stark‘s reputation as an interviewer in the same way that they might talk about Anthony Clare. Sue Lawley or Michael Aspel. Like them. she has a distinctive technique. a style all her own. The aim of her Radio Scotland series, The Achievers, is to do more than invite a personality to expand on his or her climb to fame: Stark wants to identify the source ofthe determination that propels some — not all — of Scotland‘s movers and shakers. This is not a programme about fame. but about ambition, its fruits and its cost.
In the first series. Richard
Demarco, who is gregarious anyway.
found himself revealing more than even he had bargained for; later he congratulated Stark on ‘thc definitive interview’. ‘I‘m pretty tenacious,‘ she admits. ‘but the show isn‘t meant to be an expose’. Obviously you hope they might say things they hadn’t expected to say. but you don‘t want to abuse their trust’.
Pat Kane is interviewed in the new series — among the others are Sandy Gall, Billy Kay, Louise Aitken-Walker and, probably. Peter Howson — and has provided Stark with one of her most interesting encounters. ‘I thought I might find him enormously irritating for his arrogant form of intellectualism — he can say twelve words where three would do — but I very quickly discovered his vulnerability. I think that‘s one of the most attractive things about someone.’
‘ He also agreed with Stark‘s, not unusual, suspicion that Scots have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to success: his schoolfellows thought he would never amount to anything. ‘There are plenty of Scots who have excelled.‘ says Stark, ‘but then there’s'a sub-culture of under- achievement, almost a resentment of people who do well. Scots aren‘t easily impressed. I quite like that side ofthem.‘
Pat Kane is interviewed on the Achievers on Tue3 Mar, 12.30pm (repeated 7.02pm)
We’ve all met someone who likes the Mary Whitehouse Experience. Generally they tell into two categories: adolescents who like the giggle- behind-the-hand iactor oi comics using the word ‘wanker’ to describe . . .well, everybody, basically; and then the irankly pitiiul iemales who iancy the' designer pants oii Bob Newman. This is the audience who shall henceiorth be dubbed We Marys.
Then there’s the rest oi us. Occasionally, stuck ior something better to do, or bemoaning the passing oi another series oi Cheers, we tune in. The division lines on the show are clear from the first second. There’s the trendies, Newman and his would-be- Woody Allen side-kick, David Baddiel, and the other two. We Mary’s have little time lorthe other two, prelerring
eitherto ogle Newman’s hooded top with ‘Newman’ emblazoned on one sleeve and ‘Rob’ on the other, or smirk as Baddiel recites more jolly jokes about circumcision. What the We Mary's seem unable to grasp though, is that the other two are the iunny ones; anyone who has seen Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt on Carrott’s Lib can vouch ior that, but then the We Mary’s don’t watch Carrott because he’s an oldie. Punt, coniirming suspicions that he and his partner are the quality hall oi the show, was less than happy with the iirstTV series.
’It was considerably less topical than the radio series,’ says Punt, ‘iirstly because it’s harder to put in last minute stuii on TV and, more importantly, because we were in the middle ol the Cult conilict. We couldn’t do stuii about the Cult until the iinal show and we thought that it we did anything else that was topical it would make it really transparently obvious that we were avoiding the one subject that should have been covered. I think that this time, assuming that a major conilict in the Middle East doesn’t break out in the next iour weeks, we should be able to get some oi the topical content back into it.’
Which hopelully means that we'll see more at Punt and Dennis because, as Baddiel and Newman premiered their material on the radio show, then regurgitated it ior TV, then toured with it and, iinally, wrote a book with it, we can assume that topical material is not exactly theiriorte. (Philip Parr)
The Mary Whitehouse Experience starts on BBC2 on Monday 2 March.
The Lawn Society
This time last year Channel 4 were proudly unveiling their ilagship drama series ior 1991, GBH, a serial that garnered more column inches than anything the channel had ever shown. Bleasdale’s seven-part blockbuster lived up to all the hype admirably, but in 1992, the channel’s big budget serial comes as a marked contrast. The Camomlle Lawn, Mary Wesley’s
elegiac tale oibrightyoung thingsiust
beiore the war, is a radical departure ior Channel 4, a step into costume drama that has hitherto been the province oi the BBC orthe commercial network. With a cast headed by such mainstream names as Felicity Kendal and Paul Eddington, it might seem that we were in tor a spot oi high society slop, all period detail and BSC-ish acting, a iar cry irom last year’s harrowing scenes oi violent pickets and mental breakdowns.
The series director Peter Hall (lormerly director oi the National Theatre) believes The Camomlle Lawn has more to otter: ‘You look at a scene which seems rather like a scene irom a high-quality soap opera, and then you realise that there are about three or iour other things going on underneath it,’ he says. ‘lt’s explosive and unusual. It’s iinally all about sex in one lorm or another. There isn’t a character
Kendal and Eddington
who isn't motivated by sex in order to iind their own emotional integrity, all underneath a terribly English suriace.’
Alia, so we can expect a Time To Dance-style orgy oi copulation can we? Well not exactly, although Hall believes that public reaction to the series will be interesting. ‘It might be controversial and mildly shocking,’ he says. ‘lt’s zany, it‘s eccentric and it’s absolutely British.’
Makes you proud doesn’t it? What remains to be seen is how the very English, very upper-class characters iare in gaining the viewers’ sympathy lor their assorted aiiairs, ilings and adulteries. Apart irom Eddington and Kendal, the bulk oi the cast are young unknowns. The danger is that a combination oi drama-school gushing and a touch too much theatrical luvviness in Hall’s direction could make The Camomlle Lawn a iour-part cringe. After the brave and successiul GBl-l it would be a shame to see Channel 4’s excellent reputation ior drama sullied. (Tom Lappin)
The Camomlle Lawn starts on Channel 4 on Thursday 5 March.
I Elvis Costello Part one of a four-part ‘definitive‘ biography starts on the day. in 1977. when Declam McManus metamorphosed into the sultry. sulky creator ofhits like Watching The Detectives and I [)(m 'I Want To (It) To (he/sea. This episode concentrates on the punk years. and promises a ‘racy look' at the sex, drugs and rock ‘n‘ roll mythology of life on the road. (Radio 1.Sat 2‘), 2pm)
I News Quiz Richard lngrams and Alan (‘oren return for a new series— far superior to itsTV off-shoot.( Radio 4, starts Sat 29. 12.25pm)
I Stop Me and Tell One The country‘s first full- time arts-grant storyteller defends his £1i).(l()()per annum job: he drives around Wales in a brightly coloured ‘storyteller‘s van‘. spinning yarns in schools. pubs and at agricultural shows. . . (Radio 4. Sat 29.
I Exile: A Nation Divided This documentary returns to 1930s Spain. the scene ofone of the biggest migrations to have taken place in recent European history. as families ﬂed the invasion of Franco's Nationalist Army. The programme asks what has happened to the exiles since then. and features interviews with actor Alfred Molina and Michael Portillo MP. both sons ofexilcs who settled in Britain. (Radio4. Sun 1. 10.15pm)
I Devil's Advocate A welcome repeat of the series in which writers. actors and politicians are invited to defend a literary villain of their choice. This week: Tony Slattery insists that Cruella de Vil (A Hundred and ()ne Dalmatians) was ‘an outcast. a victim ofhcr upbringing and suffered from a repressive womb complex‘. (Radio 4. Mon 2.3.15pm)
I Famous ior Fitteen Minutes Also a repeat. this series digs up people who once enjoyed fleeting fame and finds out what they are up to now. in the first programme. Jenni Mills meets John Knight. the ‘Supcrdad‘ oftabloids ten years ago: he lived on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall and spent his time jogging between his two wives and 28 children. At least one of his liaisons has since broken up. (Radio 4. starts Thurs 5. 9.45am)
60 The List 28 February - 12 March 1992