Drunk Again: Ann Widdecombe Investigates (Radio 5 Live) | iPlayer
If David and George are two arrogant posh boys who don't know the price of milk, then what is The Widdecombe? In her 5 Live programme, portentously entitled Drunk Again: Ann Widdecombe Investigates, she wasn't arrogant. She got on fine with the lively young women who took her on a night out. She was ignorant, of course, but that's the point: Widdecombe is famed for her innocence. And she definitely didn't know the price of a sambuca. She didn't know what it was.
"You set it alight!" "Ooh, Ann, you haven't lived!" "You can light it in your mouth, if you want!" The delighted mewing and purring of her companions – funny, sensible girls who were teachers and accountants – made it seem as if she was surrounded by friendly kittens. Ann, with her awful, honking voice (she really is hard to listen to), was more of an elderly goose. She kept trying to take control – "I'll go to the bar" – but the kittens' determination to gambol and play got her all of a dither. "You all wake up top and tail in bed?" she trumpeted. "You don't seriously mean that you all share a bed?" They did. It was fun, they said. As was dancing in heels, going to a cafe the morning after in their pyjamas and using photos to try and piece together a night out. And drinking. Just… fun.
Ann couldn't – or wouldn't – understand. And that's where this programme failed. You need a presenter who's willing to learn in order to make a great documentary, and Ann Widdecombe is proud to know nothing. It's her USP. "I'm as baffled at the end as I was at the beginning," she said, despite having met academics, doctors and researchers who told her almost everything there is to know about alcohol. Including, by the way, the fact that for the past eight years, problem drinking has significantly decreased in the UK's 18- to 24-year-olds. But Ann didn't really take anything in; she investigated and then she ignored.
I expect that 5 Live thought the idea of Widdecombe hanging out with a bunch of drunk Essex girls would be funny. It was, a bit, but not half as funny as AL Kennedy's essay for Radio 3 on the relationship between art and madness. She unpicked films, pointing out that if you were to take on Hollywood's depiction of artists you would assume that creativity had "similar casualty figures to serving in Vietnam". She unpicked radio, creating and then deconstructing a scene in a hotel that had her lying on a bed, "self-pitying, upset, theatrically tormented and horizontal". She was just great, and I really recommend you listen on iPlayer. You'll have to be quick, though; today's the last day.
As it is for Radio 4 Extra's Titanic Radio Ballad, made for the 100th anniversary by Radio Solent. If you're unfamiliar with the Radio Ballads, they were created in the late 1950s by Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl and radio producer Charles Parker. They combined real-life interviews with sound effects and specially written songs to capture a documentary moment, usually the story of a group of people: teenagers, miners, road builders. For this new Radio Ballad, producer Philip Glassborow used archive recordings of Titanic survivors and Seeger sang a song she'd written with her son, Calum MacColl. It was beautiful, her voice, stunning. Unfortunately, actors were used to recreate certain scenes, which went absolutely against the original idea and rather spoilt the effect. But, still, worth checking out.
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