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Audio Comedy Review


The Navy Lark
Series Six - Volume Two


Starring: Jon Pertwee, Leslie Phillips, Stephen Murray, Ronnie Barker, Heather Chasen and Tenniel Evans
BBC Audio
RRP: £25.50
ISBN: 978 1 408 46734 3
Available 14 February 2011

Back in the days of steam radio, when the wireless was still king - at least for comedy - the BBC produced a number of ‘timeless classics’ including Round the Horne, Hancock’s Half Hour, The Men from the Ministry and The Navy Lark - the subject of this generous box set.

The fact that more than five decades have passed since HMS Troutbridge first set sail hasn’t diminished the show’s appeal - the misadventures of her crew are still garnering new fans; a worthy testament to the quality and enduring appeal of The Navy Lark.

In truth, the show isn’t full of belly laughs, the scripts are repetitious and the characters rarely stretch beyond simple stereotypes. But, of course, that doesn’t matter when you have Jon Pertwee, Leslie Phillips and Ronnie Barker reading the lines, ably assisted by Stephen Murray.

And like Steptoe and Son and Dad’s Army, the programme relies on a study of class and manners as its motor - a method of propulsion that moves comedy along to this day.

The ten episodes in this set are a mixed bag of nautical mayhem and mishaps and include the reappearance of the recently independent Potarneyland, a country that has a frigate, Poppadom, that’s even more inept that HMS Troutbridge and her crew. And it’s here that things start to show their age.

A ‘goodness, gracious me’ accent from Ronnie Barker as a Potarneyland dignitary is less convincing and more insulting than Peter Sellers ever managed and while you can forgive the episode because of its age it still makes for uncomfortable listening.

The real gem, however, is the last episode on the fifth disc: The Surprise Wedding [originally broadcast on 05 March 1961]. This was the last episode of series three that was until recently thought lost. However, a domestic recording was recently unearthed and this has been carefully restored. The audio quality isn’t quite as good as the other episodes but it’s perfectly listenable.

It’s almost pointless trying to give these episodes a mark out of ten. The quality is pretty constant so if you like The Navy Lark then these five discs will be an unbridled joy. And if the programme doesn’t float your boat you’ll not be persuaded otherwise by a quick listen to what on offer here.

So it’s left hand down a bit for a well-deserved...


Anthony Clark

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