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Man of the Moment by Alan Ayckbourn

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BBC Radio 4, 11 April 2009
 
Produced to celebrate the author's seventieth birthday, Martin Jarvis's revival of Man of the Moment took a swipe at contemporary celebrity culture, in which the truth must never be seen to get in the way of a good story. Jill Rillington (Lisa Dillon), a thrusting young television journalist, conceived the idea for a programme that brought together criminal-turned-TV star Vic Parks (Tim Pigott-Smith) and the brave ex-bank clerk Douglas Beechey (Alex Jennings) who had attempted to stop Parks robbing his bank seventeen years previously. The idea seemed fine in theory, but Jill remained perpetually frustrated by Douglas's optimistic view of the world. Despite everything that had happened, he bore no malice toward Vic, and hence deprived Jill of that vital element of conflict that makes for good television. Eventually Jill got to make her programme, but what was related on screen was very different from what really happened. Although first produced in 1988, Man of the Moment seems even more significant in this reality-television obsessed age, in which Big Brother stars such as the late Jade Goody can be catapulted to stardom despite their lack of any discernible talent.
 
In truth Man of the Moment is not a very good play. The characters lack depth, conforming to received stereotypes: the ex-con Vic is a yob with a tarty wife living in a Spanish villa, who cannot abide anyone disagreeing with him. If they do, he threatens to rearrange their features. Douglas lives in Purley, and possesses no ambition other than to carve out a comfortable live in a semi-detached house. The nanny Sharon (Ella Smith), whose failed suicide attempt triggers the dénouement, is a typical Yorkshire lass, her speeches sprinkled with northern colloqualisms, who believed quite mistakenly that Vic has fallen for her.
 
Martin Jarvis's revival was distinguished by Pigott-Smith's menacing performance as Vic. On several occasions he delivered his lines through clenched teeth, particularly when addressing Sharon. The normally reliable Jennings turned Douglas into a caricature; despite its popular image amongst dramatists, Croydon is actually a vibrant, multicultural community with a varied social mix. Dillon's Jill grew shriller and shriller in her delivery as she tried to provoke Douglas into a reaction.
 
Despite Jill's best efforts, her programme failed to achieve sufficiently high ratings, and was replaced in the schedules by a twelve-part series of repeats of Vic's chat show. From beyond the grave he remained the "man of the moment."