Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, adapted by Elizabeth Proud

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BBC Radio 7, 14-19 May 2010
Ian Cotterell's production of the misadventures of Flora Poste (Patricia Gallimore) aimed its satiric shotgun at a variety of targets - for example, the conflict between town and country values, youth versus age, and the disparity between the world as depicted in Mills and Boon romances, and the harsh reality of real life. Gleefully told by three narrators, Gibbons herself (Elizabeth Proud), Flora and John Westbrook (John Westbrook), the story unfolded in fits and starts, with scenes of outrageous comedy followed by sonorous commentary. Cotterell also gave some of his cast the licence to overact - Fabia Drake's Irish grandmarm being a good example.
As I listened to this production, I kept being reminded of the 1970s and 1980s spoof series Soap - a gleeful parody of the genre whose characters endured almost unbelievable indignities yet emerged perpetually unscathed. Each episode ended with an unseen narrator asking rhetorical questions followed by a definite statement: "What will happen to ...?" "Are they really in love?" "Watch the next exciting episode of Soap!" While this strategy deliberately poked fun at the genre, it nonetheless encouraged viewers to keep watching. Cotterell introduced the same device in Cold Comfort Farm; in this case, it was the stalwart tones of Radio 4 announcer Peter Donaldson who posed all the questions. Once he had finished, each episode concluded with an (unidentified) sonorous voice intoning "COLD ... COMFORT ... FARM!!"
All these aural shenanigans were entertaining enough, but I still got the sense that Cotterell was perhaps reluctant to approach Gibbons' novel on its own merits as a satiric piece.