Goodnight from Him by Roy Smiles

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 27 May 2013
The playwright Roy Smiles has written two biodramas, each chronicling the lives of some of Britain's best-loved comics.  In 2010 he profiled the Pythons; last year he explored the relationship between Arthur Lowe and John le Mesurier.  In Goodnight from Him he turned his attention to the Two Ronnies, who were first brought together on The Frost Report and debuted on BBC television as a double-act in 1971.  Their show ran for sixteen years, until Ronnie Barker (Robert Daws) decided to retire and run an antique business.
The play was structured rather like one of the Two Ronnies shows, with occasional comic monologues and/or sketches interspersed with reconstructed dialogue.  Narrated by Ronnie Corbett (Aidan McArdle), it told the story of how both actors served long apprenticeships in theatre, cabaret and television before they were brought together. Barker worked in repertory and in the West End before being given his big break on the popular radio series The Navy Lark;  Corbett spent many years working in cabaret with Danny La Rue.
Some of the sketches were quite well written, in a clever pastiche of the Two Ronnies' style.  Barker gave one of his comic monologues in which the pronunciation of words was deliberately wrong, investing innocent words with suggestive meanings; Corbett recounted one of his tall stories, interspersing his jokes with occasional guffaws of laughter.
Inevitably, however, the play's success depended on the extent to which the cast could stimulate memories of the characters they portrayed.  Daws' Ronnie Barker was especially good; he managed to show just how shy the comedian actually was, despite the success he enjoyed.  McArdle's Corbett had rather too dirty a laugh; he sounded more like Sid James rather than Corbett himself.  But Mcardle managed to catch Corbett's vocal mannerisms, with the occasional Scottish vowel punctuating his immaculate RP accent.  Matt Addis made an effective stab at John Cleese - a rather supercilious man, proud of his public school and Oxbridge education (in contrast to the grammar-school educated Ronnies).
All in all, a pleasurable afternoon's listening, that conjured up memories of Saturday nights long past.