BBC Radio 4, 21 September 2013
In the wake of Radio 4's season
of classic Sixties adaptations, Rumours took us back to 1963, when the three editors of Private Eye - Richard
Ingrams (Harry Hadden-Paton), Willie Rushton (Ewan Bailey) and Christopher Booker (Gunnar Cauthery) - were heavily involved
in exposing the seamy underbelly of the Establishment. They focused a lot of their venom on the then Prime Minister
Harold Macmillan (John Rowe) - an Old Etonian and representative of a fast-disappearing world of privilege and social
The Profumo scandal helped cement Private Eye's reputation as the leading
satirical magazine of the day. Try as they might, the main actors involved - especially Profumo - could not cover their
tracks successfully; Dr. Stephen Ward (Carl Prekopp) understood this, and ended up making a quasi-Faustian pact with the editors
by promising to reveal everything about the affair. Needless to say the editors refused; Ward ended up being accused
of crimes he did not commit; and committed suicide as a result.
Marc Beeby's production had several virtues:
Bailey's performance as Rushton was beautifully realized. Here was a man who acquired rapid fame by impersonating
Macmillan on That Was the Week That Was, but rapidly lost it when the Prime Minister resigned. He
found it difficult to cope with this experience, and ended up slightly frustrated. Rowe's Macmillan came across
as a sympathetic figure - a representative of the Old Guard trying his best to come to terms with a rapidly changing world.
He was neither the "Supermac" of popular myth, nor the old fuddy-duddy as constructed by Private Eye, but a reasonable
man let down by members of his government whom he (erroneously) trusted.
Nonetheless I have to admit that the play
as a whole was rather diffuse in structure - although not directly about the Profumo Affair, it included too many details
which seemed over-familiar. Perhaps more time could have been spent on characterizing the three Private Eye
editors; both Booker and Ingrams were sketchily drawn.