23/02/13 by Charlotte Williams

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Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 23 February 2013
The Profumo scandal has exerted a macabre fascination for writers past and present ever since it broke in 1963. Ian Crawford's book on the affair, published a year later, was a best-seller.  Michael Caton Jones' film Scandal in the late 1980s boasted memorable performances from John Hurt as the society osteopath Stephen Waed and Joanne Whalley as Christine Keeler.
Produced to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the event, 23/02/13 was notable for the fact that it was introduced by Mandy Rice-Davies, an eighteen-year-old fun-seeker at the time whose career had subsequently branched in several directions.  She has been a business person, cabaret artiste, West End actor, writer and celebrity, amongst others.  Her general view of the whole Profumo affair was straightforward enough; while it actually involved serious issues of national security, it showed the Establishment in its true colours.  They were not only hypocritical (after all, Profumo was a member of the Establishment) but they needed a scapegoat.  They found it in Stephen Ward (Ewan Bailey), who was accused of living off immoral earnings - amongst other things - and eventualy committed suicide in order to escape censure.  In Rice-Davies' view he ought not to have been treated in this way.
Rice-Davies portrayed herself as something of an innocent victim; although she liked sleeping around, she claimed to have little knowledge of the people she bedded.  She saw herself as a hedonist; a teenager with a penchant for telling elaborate tall tales, who was willingly picked up and used by members of the aristocracy.  This might be true to an extent; but one wonders how and why these aristocrats believed that Rice-Davies wouldn't try to exploit them for as much as she could get.
Kate McAll's production told a familiar tale, but one that still attracts our interest, if only for the way it exposes the continuing frailties of whose who purport to govern us.