Joan and the Baron by Mark Burgess

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 7 January 2014
This biographical piece focused on the unlikely relationship that developed between the theatre director Joan Littlewood (Eleanor Bron) and Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Michael Jayston).  Both of them had suffered the experience of bereavement: Littlewood had lost her lifelong partner Gerry Raffles, while the Baron had lost his second wife.  When the two of them came together, they formed a friendship which was tentative at first, but gathered strength, once Joan discovered that the Baron's intentions were entirely honourable.  After a lifetime in the theatre, she understood that there were alternative ways to spend one's life - for example, engaging in different aspects of viticulture.
Bron's performance as Joan Littlewood was particularly convincing - one understood how she had devoted her life to the theatre, not as a form of entertainment, but as a social and political force.  She staged plays that commented on the world; whether new plays or revivals, they had to speak to particular audiences. 
Sometimes the need for biographical information got in the way of character-development: Burgess' insertion of flashback scenes, showing Littlewood's company at work on Oh What a Lovely War! (1963) seemed incidental to the development of the main action.  Perhaps greater use could have been made of the Baron as narrator, recording his reactions to Joan at any particular moment.
Sometimes Jayston's Baron resorted to the kind of franglais reminiscent of comedy series such as 'Allo 'Allo, but in general he remained a sympathetic character who understood the insecurities of his illustrious companion, despite her achievements within the theatre.  The director of this elegiac piece was David Blount.