BBC Radio 7, 19 June 2009
A treat for nostalgia-lovers, Summer with Monika recreated
the world of mid-1960s Liverpool: The Beatles, the loss of innocence, the Mersey Beat and the experience of sex. This
dramatized version of McGough's narrative poem was shot through with assumptions of the time: the belief that London was a
faraway place both geographically and socially (even though it was only a couple of hundred miles from Liverpool); the idea
that any young Liverpudlian with a guitar could follow the Beatles' example and rocket to stardom; and the belief that John
Lennon was somehow godlike in his pronouncements.
However uncomfortable reality kept deflating these illusions. Most young people at
that time were attached to home and family, and would seldom contemplate the idea of premarital sex, let alone moving to London.
John, the poet-speaker (Mark McGann) tried his best to attract the lovely Monika's (Katy Carmichael's) attention, yet remained
unfulfilled: poetry provided an outlet for his frustrations. Eventually John overcame his inhibitions and travelled down to
London in the hope of fulfilling his desire to become a professional musician. The quest proved fruitless: John overcame his
disappointment by creating a dream-world in which he married Monika and became a full-time poet. However the story did have
a happy ending as Monika eventually responded to John's advances; the two of them got married and embarked on a life together
in Liverpool. No longer an inaccessible figure, Monika was transformed by John into a symbol of stability, the bedrock of
a happy relationship that inspired him to pursue his poetic ambitions.
This elegaic, part-autobiographical tale was enlivened by specially-composed music,
as well as occasional interventions by the author. McGough has an ideal radio voice, at once warm and welcoming and softened
by Liverpudlian vowels. The director was Ned Chaillet.