BBC Radio 7, 18 July 2009
Mrs. Forrester (Sylvia Syms) appeared to have it all - a precocious literary
talent, an admiring coterie of acquaintances, and a loyal husband (Desmond Barrit) who, although possessing no creative talent
of his own, provided financial support for his wife.
One day, however, her world fell apart at the seams. Her husband eloped with Mrs.
Bullfinch the cook (Shirley Anne Field) and set up home in a seedy Kennington apartment, citing boredom as a reason for
his decision. Although outraged at this, Mrs. Forrester failed to win him back; her husband recommended that she should stop
writing pretentious claptrap and turn to detective novels instead. By this means she might become financially self-sufficient.
Despite initial misgivings, Mrs. Forrester took his advice and wrote a book with the classical-sounding title ("The Achilles
Statue"), which immediately became a best-seller. Flushed with success, she continued her literary seminars, even though
the focus of attention switched from stylistic matters to working out whodunit.
This little tale gave Somerset Maugham the chance to take pot-shots at the literati
(who might denounce him as a 'popular' novelist), as well as defending 'ordinary' readers. The story contains some neat little
jokes - during her literary period Mrs. Forrester favours the colon, but once she has followed her husband's advice she deigns
to include the semi-colon in her prose.
Neville Teller's adaptation introduced the narrator (Dirk Bogarde) recounting the
story to the listeners. This was a clever strategy - although Bogarde had an immaculate speaking voice (the product of his
training at the Rank Organization), there was a touch of playfulness to it, as if he were enjoying the experience of recounting
Mrs. Forrester's conversion. The tone he employed is difficult to describe in words - perhaps whimsical might be the best
term. While appreciating what Mrs. Forrester was trying to do, the narrator understood the significance of her becoming more
populist in approach, so as to survive. The fact she accomplished this task was testament to her resilience. The director
of this production was Janet Whittaker.