Books

Simon Brett’s FOUL PLAY, A BBC 4 Radio Show about Misanthropes, Mystery & Murder

I would never have listened to this audiobook of the first four seasons of FOUL PLAY had not my sister put me onto it, saying that it kept her in hysterics while she was preparing the Christmas Dinner.

So, I gave it a whirl, and discovered some great things about it, and some that were not so great.

To begin with, this is really NOT for someone who doesn’t like Britain and that British jokey culture of bad puns and one-liners. If that sort of thing isn’t for you, you should definitely give this a miss.

Secondly, this show is VERY BRITISH. As many of you know, the British love their parlor games: snakes & ladders, monopoly, scrabble, jigsaw puzzles and various card games. If you are not into this, you should also give this a miss.

Phyllis Dorothy James who wrote crime fiction under the pen name PD James (1920-2014). One of my favorite novels by her is “An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.” Image taken from her website pdjames.co.uk.

For what Simon Brett has done is create a game out of detective novels. He acts as the moderator (and occasional solicitor) for the players (always distinguished writers of crime, such as PD James and Lady Antonia Fraser) and his “cast of thousands” which consists of British comedian Lee Simpson (who does all the male voices) and British actress Maria McErlane (who does all the female.)

And it is these two people who make this show sing. They are simply amazing in their range of voices and acting ability. And as this took place before a live audience, a lot of what they did was improv!!

Lady Antonia Fraser by Madame Yevonde black and white reprint, 1956. Source National Portrait Gallery website, npg.org.uk.

Otherwise, the show format was identical for each episode, which gave it a rather mechanical feel. The two players are given a teeny-tiny bit of evidence to go on, which consists of an opening statement, statements by three suspects and bits and bobs of new evidence presented by a couple of police officers. After you’ve heard about three of these, it gets really repetitive, which makes me think that experiencing it in its original format, as a weekly radio play, would be a better way of experiencing it, rather than listening to it (as I did) from beginning to end.

British Actress Maria McErlane, taken from her website mariamcerlane.co.uk.

Five stars for the amazing performances by Maria McErlane and Lee Simpson, Three stars for the mechanical format, which makes a total of Four Stars.

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