Death warmed up
Arthur Miller fans with day jobs would be advised to set their video recorders for a rare television adaptation of the great American playwright’s classic, Death 0! A Salesman. The classy five- part drama has been commissioned for 830 schools programmes, and though the plan is to screen it later in an evening slot no date has been fixed for transmission.
The production is something of a coup for the education department, which has been responsible tor a series of impressive dramas made on a fraction of the budget commanded by prime-time television. The 880 was only given permission by Miller to film Death 0! A Salesman because it was intended for educational purposes. However with the backing of the playwright himself and director David Thacker, whose stage production of Miller’s most recent play Broken Glass won an Olivier award, the BBC was able to put together an impressive cast headed by Warren ‘Alf Garnett’ Mitchell as the world-weary Brooklyn salesman. His wayward elder son Biff is played by Iain Glen.
‘We have invested in a good cast because this is very much a performance piece,’ says executive producer Richard Langridge. ‘We’ve not got the money to do it as a film so
j Death Of A Salesman: Warren Mitchell as ; Willy Loman and Rosemary Harris as his wife Linda
j it has to work as a TV play and the audience has to be gripped by the ' performances.’ ; The drama is played straight with few i distractions from elaborate sets or ' tricksy camera work. Conscious that the adaptation would be used for years to come as a teaching resource, ‘ Thacker has kept the focus tightly on t the script as it would be performed on i stage, with only a few minor changes 3 for television. All the performances ' are refreshingly straightforward, with r plenty of attention to the details of accent and mannerism. ‘The thing I’ve r found in dealing with children’s drama ' is that the audience is quick to detect ' anything that is bogus,’ says Langridge. ‘lt it’s at all arty or : pretentious, they’ll just switch off.’ , (Eddie Gibb) Death 0! A Salesman starts on Fri 19 ' April at noon on 8802.
I One In The Jungle (Raina lll't‘i l‘) Apr. l()pm. l’reviously nutrplttsscd by the deep. dark sound of drum 'ri' bass. it seems our techno/house»led Scottish dance scene is now shifting to welcolrre a few jungle clubs into the fold. Those who've been seduced by the alternative. or won over by the cltib to chart success of please-all junglist (ioldre can do no worse than tune in to the second series of this two-hour drum 'n' bass srot. The first show features jungle innovator and DJ LTJ Btikem. whose long awaited album Logical I’rueri'xvinii is released this month.
I Studio 3: Vox Humana (Radio ‘o sat :0 Apr. 10.45pm. Wacko radio offering of the fortnight comes from (ireta IIarpo. as she takes drastic steps to perfect her voice by having surgery on her vocal chords iii this pseudo performance art event by Nick Fisher. Inspired by conceptual (il'llsl Orlan. whose act consists of subjecting herself to plastic surgery. llarpo‘s fifteen- minute operation w ill take place in a surgery wired for live broadcast. with mikes picking tip gurgles and sloshes as a surgeon injects cortisone into her chords. I Documentary: The Mo Wax Story (Radio l) Sun 21 Apr. 7pm. The irreteorrc rise oflaines l.avelle from fifteen-year- old Kidlington schoolboy to head honcho at one of Britain's hippest record labels is the subject of this one-off documentary. Cutting in on the jazz scene in 1991. Mo Wax Iras consistently broken boundaries by mixing genres like jazz with electr‘o. hip hop and jungle. The prograirrnie goes back to Lavelle's roots interviewing friends who Dl‘d with him in Kidlington. the folks he hustled work experience from. his competitors and the artists he poached front the rtiajors.
I Sunday Play: Victory (Radio 3) Sun 21
.-\pr'. ‘). l 5pm. Top British actress .luliet
‘ Stevenson. best known for her stunning performance alongside Alan Rickrrrart in the lilm 'I'I'ulv. .llriu’lv. Deep/v. takes the
lead role it) Howard Barker's controversial play. l‘rrst broadcast last ()etober against a storm of protest. the drama makes poignant comment on the current state-of-the-natioir by way of
reference to the rampant i‘oyalist/capitalist
polities 0f the IfifiUs.
I This Must Be The Place: Filey 1946
(Radio 4) Mon 23 Apr. 9.15pm. There‘s
rrowt we Brits like better than a rose-
tinted look back in nostalgia. Nick Baker
obliges Will) a new series Ittttklitg at the
changing face of Billy Butlin‘s pride arid
joy: the holiday camps where you could
once enjoy free rides. the pictures. a
swimming pool. a funhotrse and four
f meals a day for just two pounds and five shillings. liirst stop is Butlins. l-‘iley. (946. where the camp that used to hold l3.()()()
' in summer twice the population of I5iley
itself ~ has since been bulldozed and renamed little Beirut' by the locals.
g I World Tonight Special: America
Dreaming (Radio 4) Tue 23 Apr. 7.20pm.
.\nother report in the excellent ll'ur/r/
'liuir'e/ii series. with Simon l)ring
travelling across small town USA. testing
i the waters among the picket fence and
family values-loving middle Americans
who will ultimateiy determine who wins
the race for the White House.
i I Sportsl’top (Radio 5 Live) I‘ri lb Apr.
9.35pm. '1 he sports-dormirated channel with another series investigating the issues that matter. Like the quality of meat j pies at football matches (I think we know j the answer to that one don't we kids). the j price of season tickets and dubious : training shoes. Adrian Goldberg is the j man on the frontlirre defending the rights . ofconsumers in the rriulti-billion pound " sports goods and services market. (Ellie Carr)
When Channel 4 launched is crazy- colour morning show The Big Breakfast. it quickly turned into a tale of blonde ambition and carrot-topped cheek. While the ginger in question. Chris Evans. has gone on to noise tip viewers and broadcasting bigwigs alike on his indie-orientated weekend opener 'I'I’I Friday and Radio I wake-up call. the blonde. Gaby Roslin. has been groomed as an Esther Rantzerr for the 90s.
Billed in the trailers as “Blonde is back'. The Baby Roslin Show (Saturdays. Channel 4) promised to pull the product plug on the celebrity interview format. As it turned out. there was no need for the celebs to ptrff their next book/lilrit/tour as Roslin seems more than happy to provide the breathless hype herself. So stand-up Eddie lzzard was introdtrccd as the greatest ‘comedian on the planet'. while singer David McAlinont was I declared to possess ‘the voice of an E angel‘.
()nly Ike Turner was able to stem the gush with his tales of a SZ().()()()-a-week cocaine habit and history of beating tip j on his ex-wife. Tina. This is a well j doctiirrented story. so Roslin's dcterrriinatioir to extract an adrnisssion of gtiilt was something of an easy target. btit at least she didn‘t miss. There is only one reason why Ike Turner is invited on chat shows. and that‘s to talk about his ex-wife. which makes the whole circus a rather degrading experience for viewer and subject. The fact that rock's favourite grandmother is about to embark on a mammoth world tour was presurrrably the excuse for dragging the whole sorry business through the rntrd one more time.
When Roslin and Evans were presenters on T/It' lire Break/list. Gaby was always the one chosen to do the Daily .(Wul/dllgs‘ with mums of ‘tragic lots" and the like. These moments were toe-curlineg embarrassing btit were apparently enough to persuade Channel 4 that Roslin has the gift of the gabty).
She is now the talent the station is desperate to hold onto after their other major chatshow host (‘live Anderson was poached by the BBC to provide its anaemic entertainment schedule with an irony supplement. (.laby. meanwhile. has that Hearts ()f'h'u/(l rnawkishness which is far more familiar on the Beeb. Despite the familiar Channel 4 trappings of primary-colonred sets and funky house band. The (iii/2y ROS/Ill S/mrr marks a strange reversal of roles indeed.
Managing. just. to avoid the old cliche about ‘the geek shall inherit the earth‘. Bob Cringely's new three-part documentary The Triumph Of The Herds
(Sundays. Channel 4) went all out to
ptrmp tip the world-shaking importance of the speccy computer programmers who populate Silicon Valley.
Cringely is the gossip columnist on an American computer magazine. which is something of a contradiction in terms when you think about it. He spent the first programme explaining that Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple Computers co-fotinder Steve Jobs succeeded precisely because they avoided interpersonal relationships with the opposite sex. So what's there to gossip about exactly — who was spotted in public with a new laptop on his arm‘.’
Cringely. it ttrrned out. was that saddest of species - a failed nerd. None of the electronic gizmos lying arotrrrd his garage with their innards exposed had made his fortune. To emphasise the point. everyone he interviewed had a
job title and net worth attached to their
name on the screen sub-title. Gates. Jobs and the other masters of the digital universe tend to have stock values rated in billions. if not squillions. Their fortunes were built on years of washing take-out pizzas down with gallons of Coke. sleeping in their offices and spending every waking hour writing
computer code. Nerds. for sure. btit
nerds with high le. rerrrarkablc technological vision and a willingness to put in the hours.
If you buy the idea that a few (irateful
Dead fans changed the course of all our ? lives with the personal corrrptrter. and
the evidence presented by Cringely is compelling. 'I'ri'mnp/i ()_/"I‘/re Nerds makes for an entertainineg skewed history of the late 30th century. Interestingly IBM. the computer giant
, that badly misjudged the PC revolution
and almost went bust as a result. was only mentioned right at the end. However it did manage to insert a glossy ad in the corrimer‘cial break exhorting viewers to ‘just plug in and the world is yours'. Ultimately the story of an technological change may start with a few crazy gtrys with crazy ideas, but it‘s the multi-billion dollar corporations that inevitably come to dominate the picture. Even if they are still owned by nerds.
Fora dose of nerd-free television. check out VJS (Thursdays. Scottish). a new youth magazine programme made by twelve members of the target audience. It relies on the over-used fast- cut ‘yoof‘ style which is guaranteed to infuriate parents. btrt there were some neat ideas too. Asking a btrnch of High Street bank managers to work otrt the compound interest that would accrue on a £20 note deposited fora year was inspired. Even with calculators. the suits failed to manage the basic arithmetic. VJs one: grown-ups nil. (Eddie Gibb)
84 The List 19 Apr-2 May 1996