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A Visit from Miss Prothero by Alan Bennett

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Drama on BBC Radio 4 Extra

BBC Radio 4 Extra, 20 April 2013
 
Miss Prothero (Patricia Routledge) a busybody at the best of times, spends an afternoon with Mr. Dodsworth (Hugh Lloyd).  She is a fastidious person; the type that refuses tea on medicinal grounds, but would accept coffee (so long as it's weak), and spends much of her time criticizing the furniture, fixtures and fittings in Dodsworth's house.  Dodsworth finds her so irritating that he wishes she would leave as soon as possible - as he tells us in an aside.
 
As Alan Bennett's 1978 play unfolds, however, so the tone changes.  Both Miss Prothero and Mr. Dodsworth have spent their entire working lives at one firm - Warburton's.  Dodsworth seems to be happy in his retirement; no longer faced with the responsibility of managing the paperwork, he can now take cookery classes and look after his pet budgie Millie.  However Miss Prothero refuses to let him alone; she spends much of her time telling him about how the firm has changed since his retirement, and thereby reducing poor Mr. Dodsworth into an emotional wreck, wondering whether his years at Warburton's had any real purpose to them.
 
With nothing else in her life except Warburton's, Miss Prothero cannot contemplate the idea of Mr. Dodsworth enjoying himself, so she decides to humiliate him.  By doing so, she reveals her own inadequacies; she is not only destructive but mean-minded as well.  A Visit from Miss Prothero is about power; the kind of power achieved by sustaining a fašade of politeness, while making sure that one's so-called 'friends' are emotionally strangled.  Alan Bennett's mournful narration, drawing on a metaphor of the noose, only served to reinforce this impression.
 
Matthew Walters' production, broadcast for the first time since the early 1980s, was both taut and melancholy - living proof of how cruel people can be, even while pretending to pay a social call.