BBC Radio 4, 22 October 2012
Of all the slots currently devoted to drama on Radio 4, the Afternoon Drama
is perhaps the most likely place to find unexpected, quirky, up-the-minute, or dramatically spellbinding work. I do
not mean to denigrate any of the other slots; but I find myself being regularly surprised by the ways in which writers past
and present deal with the 45-minute radio drama.
Queuing is a necessary part of our lives. We queue at the Post Office, at the
checkout counter, at the petrol station, at immigration whenever we travel abroad. Other countries treat it in a very
different way; in some contexts queue-jumping is a regular occurrence. Sean Grundy's play takes it to its logical extreme:
what would happen if our whole lives were devoted to queuing?
The premise for Best Queue is a simple one: Jean Brooker (Susan Cookson)
receives a call from husband Mark (Simon Armstrong), telling her to join him and their two children in a queue at the end
of a local street. Apparently someone will give a million pounds to anyone who makes it to the front. When Jean
arrives, she joins a never-ending stream of people spending their entire lives waiting for something. At first the experience
proves pleasurable: television crews film them waiting, while a minor celebrity (Tony Marshall) signs autographs and encourages
them to sing along to Cliff Richard's "Summer Holiday."
As time passes, however, the experience of queuing becomes more and more nightmarish,
threatening the stability of the Brooker family as well as the society they inhabit. No one seems to know whether they
will get to the front of the queue, or whether they will receive the expected financial bonus; but they refuse to quit their
position, for fear of missing something.
With its roots in Absurdist drama such as Waiting for Godot, Best Queue
underlines the fragility of human existence: concepts such as 'social order' and 'family stability' are easily destroyed in
a dog-eat-dog world where people will do anything in search of financial gain. Even if they know in their hearts that
they will destroy themselves, they lack the strength of will to determine their own lives. Hence they become pawns in
a much larger game, dictated by institutional forces - government, the police, and so on. The producer of this disturbing
piece was Alison Crawford.