Waiting for Beckett

llad there been fair weather over the English Channel on 13 January 1957, we might not have had one of the masterpieces of 20th century drama. At his house in France, Samuel Beckett tried vainly to tune in to the BBC Third Programme transmission of his first radio play All That Fall. The poor reception made the broadcast unintelligible, and the author had to be content with a recording of the performance sent from London. Beckett’s first encounter with the new technology was inspirational: within a year he began work on Krapp’s Last Tape, in which an old man surveys his life through a collection of reel-to- reel audio diaries.

This is one of the few ah, but a few are enough! - revelatory nuggets from a two-part Bookmark special on the Irish writer, who would have been 90 this month. Beckett himself believed that what a writer did when he wasn’t writing was of no importance, but comparing the life and work can yield . insights, such as the parallels between Krapp’s remembered romance and the young author’s ill-fated love

muel Beckett

Modes geniusi Sa

for his cousin Peggy, or the war torn landscape of northern France which engendered the bleak setting of his most celebrated play, Waiting For Godot, in which ‘nothing happens twice.’

In the documentary we also learn from an old golf pro that the great man had a rather flat backswing. Such information is not to be sneered at, as Beckett took his sport seriously. There are few Nobel Prizewinners who can boast a Croix de Guerre (he fought with the Resistance), but only one who appears in Wisden (he played cricket for Trinity College against Northants). He was equally modest about all his accomplishments, and indeed some of his drinking companions had only the vaguest notion of what Sam did for a living. From the testimony of friends and family, it’s clear that a sense of privacy was integral to his publicly visible genius. (David Harris) Bookmark: Samuel Beckett is shown on Sat 6 and Sun 7 Apr on 8802.


I Studio 3: Alone At Last (Radio 3 ) Sat o Apr. 10.55pm. Iixpect the unexpected as out-on-a-limb UK performer Nigel Charnock (ex of DV8 Physical Theatre) transfers his unique. quirky. qtiickfir‘e. verbal-haemorrhage of a stage-style to a suitably artsy corner of radioland. First heard in May 1995 on experimental Liverpool radio project Hearing Ix Believing. .‘i/(HH’ A! Lust is a typically sharply scripted monologue in which a man stumbles into a radio studio and confesses to murder.

I The Radio 1 Rock Show From Sound City Leeds ’95 (Radio 1) Sun 7 Apr. 8pm. The Wildhearts. CIV. Cecil and I‘eedei‘ get the ball rollitig at one of Britain's biggest live music events. while Rm/io / Rock Show presenter John Kavanagh provides the commentary. Radio I will relay further broadcasts from Sound (.‘ity throughout the fortnight

I The Carry On Clan: Radio 2 Arts Programme (Radio 2) Stm 7 Apr. l().()3pm. Buxom-as-ever Barbara Windsor hosts a ‘family' reunion for all those who appeared in the ‘ooh you are naughty' comedies that elevated the double entendre to an art form. ReCordings of Kenneth Williams. Sid James and Hatti Jacques tell it like it was. while producer Peter Rogers says he‘d still be making (‘urry ()ns if only he could find a TV company to buy them. I Cinderella Man (Radio 5 Live) Mon 8 j Apr. l().()5pm. [luvs ()H'Il fantasy with a political conscience about an unknown bare-knuckle fighter who befriended Muhammad Ali when the Heavyweight Champion ()f The World was stripped of his title over his stance against the Vietnam War. Paddy Monaghan. who is friends with his hero Ali to this day. has his story narrated by Dennis Waterman and presented by former footballing pro John Salthouse.

I Seymour The Fractal Cat: Strange ; AflTaCLOPS(I{zidit) 4) Wed l() Apr. I lam. Goofy. American comic and star of tl'lmxe Line I! I! rill-Hilly Greg Proops stars as a i talking cat in this new five-part comedy 2

set in a sinister netlierw'orld of scarrly smart computers. John Hegley the kooky. specky. geeky btit irresistible stand-up/poet -- also stars.

I Cabaret (Radio 2) Sat 13 Apr. 7.33pm. Flamboyant. charismatic luvvie Steven Berkoff is master of ceremonies this week in the series ofspecially produced radio musicals. Based round a heady collision of(‘hristoplier Ishcrw'ood's Ber/in Slur/es and John van Drriten‘s [All] .It (tune/ti. Culture! turns a sleazy Berlin night-club into a metaphor for the decadent world of

1 pie-Nazi (iermany.

I The Champions (Radio 4) Sat If» .-\pi'. Ill-15pm. 'l‘riumphaut episode in the series that celebrates ordinary Joes fighting back. 'l‘ltir'tecn—year-old Ashley Williams takes on and beats Waddmgtons at their own game when he discovt rs a distinct lack of his footballing hero. black player .lohri Barnes ~ or any black players at all for that matter in his new Subbuteo set. I Emotion Pictures (Radio 3) Mon IS .-\pr'. 10.30pm. Scottish filmmaker l’eter (‘apaldi -— who took home a shiny new ornament from last year‘s ()scars for his stunning short l-‘ru/i: lx'ullar'v It's .\ liitlltft’l‘fll/ l.i/e joins a star-studded cast that includes still hot Hollywood names Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton. and (iina McKee. Saskia Reeves and Ricky 'l‘omlinsoii in this live-part tribute to (ierman arthouse movieniakei \\‘im Ill/res ()f Dev/re \Vettder's‘.

I Alan Parker’s 59 Minutes Of Truth (Radio I ) .-\nai'cho stand—up. self- appointed prophet and not so young. but still a teenage rebel. Alan Parker throws off his long-time mun (It' plume ‘L'rban Warrior" in favour of ‘Road Warrior" as he takes to the by w ays of the lfls' in an .-\- reg Bedford picking tip hitch-hikers who just happen to be his favourite Britpop bands.

I The Afternoon Play: Electric Angel (Radio 4) Thurs IS .-\pr. 3.03pm. Scottish journalist and erstwhile /.l\l scribe. Beatrice Colin continues her recent forays itito the world of fiction with this debut play merging ()IlS flashbacks with the present in a quirky. light-hearted comedy.

(Iillie Carr)


When world heavyweight champion Muhammad .-\li was sent his draft papers in moo. after initially failing at IFS army intelligence test. it was either an attempt to enlist .-\merica‘s most famous motor-mouth in a PR drive for the Vietnam war or a cynical exercise in slapping down an uppity coloured man. Whatever the reasoning. the Nation of Islam‘s most highly prized convert wasn't going to fight no war for nobody. Whereas eight years earlier Iilvis had been given a cushy posting in (iermany in return for becoming a walking all-.-\iiierican army recruitment ad. Ali turned into an embarrassingly hiin profile draft martyr.

Ali was stripped of his world title and refused a boxing licence in the US and prevented from travelling abroad to fight. though his wealth enabled him to stay out of prison at a time when Vietnam refuseniks were serving four years in jail. To earn a crust. Ali hit the university lecturing circuit and his tremendous charisma as a street orator whipped up enormous anti-war feeling on campuses across ;\riicrica. .-\s one of the defining public figures of the DOS. ;\li was probably as responsible for changing the tide of liberal opinion on Vietnam as any Bob Dylan protest song.

The excellent Reputations t'l‘hursdays. BB(’2) is a series which specialises in cutting famous people down to si/e; the Muhammad .-\|i programme did the opposite. enhancing the standing of a boxer w hose entertainment value in the ring was matched only by his ability to shoot off his mouth outside it. While the hurling of insults. usually scripted. during the weigli~in has bcconrc a liackneyed part of the pre-fight hype. Ali's w'it elevated this verbal sparring to an arlform.

Shown not long after the preposterous mismatch between I’i'ank Bruno and Mike ’l'y son emphasised how little boxing has to do with sport and how much it has become a choreographed entertainment for the cameras. Bruno has probably made more money otit of the fights he's lost. than all his wins ptit “ti—Tiber. \Vhile Ali's enforced career break was born ottt of a sense of racial pride. 'l‘yson Iias been kept out of the ring these past two years after a rape conviction which served only to expose his limited abilities as a black role model.

When .-\li made his comeback. the fight game was already changing. Ills famous Rumble in the Jungle against (ieor'ge l-‘oreriian in 1974 took the fighters to '/.aire in a bi/arrc kind of heart of darkness return to Africa. B." the time of the "thriller in Manila' follow tip. .-\li had become just another

Channel Hopping


past—it heav y w eight hugging his ohhonent for twelve rounds. '\ll over“ extended career in the ring. including a comeback in HS! _ did nothing to . enhance an untouchable reputation. and i surely contributed to his developing I Parkinson's. But for a time. as he said himself repeatedly. he was the greatest. :\|so making a welcome comeback. just in time to see off a weak challenger. is the incomparable Sergeant Bilko in The Phil Silvers Show (Mondays. BBL‘Z) whose memory is currently being abused by Steve Martin in a film version ofthe classic army comedy. Martin has chosen to play Bilko differently from the character's creator. which is probably the lesser of two evils. btit the question remains ‘why bother." At least it means reruns on television fora comedy series which is still as fresh now as when it started in l‘)57. Watching Bilko now shows how little the sitcom format has changed. and I remains an object lesson in sharp i dialogue and good cliara:terisation. The shows influence ()1‘. classic

American comedies like M 39*}! and lint is evident. Maybe Steve Martin has actually done us a big favour after all.

The last in the short series ot‘Dalziel And Pascoe tuner ) was another lesson in formulaic television well executed. Based on the very English crime fiction of Reginald Hill. these 00-minute dramas were adapted by .-\lan Plater and Malcolm ‘l-Iistory j Man' Bradbury who are nothing if not

I l

time-served screen writers. Like Morse.

the set-up revolves around a maverick

detective and his younger. more ' conventional sidekick who have an abrasive relationship based on grtrdging mutual respect.

The final episode called '.-\ii Autumn Shroud' was a kind of ,-t/i llIS/H’t'lu)‘ (til/s as imagined by Agatha Christie with that lioariest of crime fiction plots the murder in the mansion. Iimbarking on a motoring holiday in Lincolnsliire (the phrase ‘gct a life‘ springs to mind) while his sidekick honeymoons. Dal/.iel (Warren Mitchell) just happens to break down near the country seat ofa genteel but impoverished famin iii the midst of civil war. Welcomed into the house. and then bed. by m'lady. Dalziel sets about solving the mysterious case of

the ladder. the light fitting and the Black and Decker through the heart. I'otal nonsense. of course. but Mitchell‘s performance and the light touch oftlie adaptation made this an infuriatineg watchable e\ercisc tll Saturday night mass entertainment lixpect another set res tI-‘ddie (iihb‘

Hit“ 1 ist IS \t‘t l“"t‘ 73