BBC Radio 4, 19 May 2012
Kind Hearts and Coronets was a memorable Ealing comedy directed
by Robert Hamer starring Dennis Price and Alec Guinness playing every member of the Gascoyne family. Although conventional
morality asserted itself at the end, with Price's Louis Gascoyne being sent to the gallows, the film was a delicious satire
on upper-class snobbery. It was also transformed into a memorable radio version with Harry Enfield playing the Gascoyne family.
David Spicer's modern take on the tale updated the action to the Second World War,
a time when class-distinctions no longer seemed so significant as everyone participated in the war effort to defeat the Germans.
However this spirit did not influence the Gascoyne family one iota; they were still as snobbish towards Unity (Natalie Walter),
the perceived 'black sheep' of the family, as they had been towards Louis Gascoyne in the Hamer film.
Needless to say the Gascoyne family (played this time by Alistair McGowan) proved
no match for the scheming Unity. She almost achieved her aim to inherit the dukedom of Chalfont, were it not for the resourcefulness
of the remaining member of the family (after she had successfully killed six of them). Happily circumstances were in Unity's
favour; sentenced to death, she was eventually released after her fiance Ronnie Gascoyne (McGowan) committed suicide, while
taking the blame for all the killings of his family members. Unlike the Hamer film, she remembered to take her memoirs with
her once she left prison, and lived happily ever after.
Frank Stirling's production vividly captured the social satire of the text (based
on the Edwardian novel Israel Rank by Roy Horniman, also the source for Kind Hearts). Walter endeared herself
to listeners with her down-to-earth nature, as she confided in them while committing her various murders. We almost felt sympathetic