BBC Radio 4 Extra, 30 December 2012
Performed live by Martin Jarvis at the Best of British Festival at the
Theatre Royal, Winchester, William Holds the Stage is a comic tale of an old boy returning to his school to give
a lecture on Hamlet. Unfortunately he reckons without the interruptions of William Brown, who becomes convinced
that Shakespeare's plays were written by a man called Ham, while two other protagonists - Bacon and Eggs - were also involved
Eventually William becomes involved in a theatrical performance of a scene from Hamlet,
where he is due to play an attendant. However things do not go according to plan, and the mischievous eleven-year-old
ends up delivering a comic version of the "To Be or Not To Be" speech, much to the chagrin of his mother and his fellow-learners
- although the rest of the audience love it.
Richmal Crompton's tale aims some predictable barbs at pretentious actors and pseudo-celebrities
who are more interested in themselves than their audiences. William Brown offers commonsense criticisms of the actor;
at the same time, Crompton had a unique insight into his childlike mind. He never means to cause mayhem; it just happens.
Martin Jarvis clearly enjoyed himself playing all the roles in this dramatized reading
of the story - even though I felt at some times that he was simply reprising his P. G. Wodehouse routine. Now there's
a thought: William Brown playing Bertie Wooster ....