AUDIO DRAMA
A Certain Age
The Men's Monologues, Volume Two

Author: Lynne Truss
Starring: Douglas Hodge, Robert Glenister, Peter Capaldi, Stephen Tompkinson, Russell Beale and Stuart Milligan
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4056 7687 8
ISBN-10: 1 40567 687 6
Available 05 February 2007


In the tradition of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads come Lynne Truss's male monologues: six tales of fidelity, pride, friendship and family from the classic BBC Radio 4 series. Six men have reached a certain age, their forty-something years, and each has a very different - and sometimes surprising - story to tell, from the brother who receives an unexpected letter to a compulsive philanderer and a news photographer sent on on an unusual assignment...

This title features six more radio monologues written by Lynne Truss, author of the best-sellers Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Talk to the Hand. The stories in this three CD collection include: The Father, The Son, The Husband, The Pedant, The Brother and The Married Man.

This collection kicks off with, what I thought was the most moving out of all six, The Father. Over the 30 minutes we get to know a man who is too worried about being like his own father. He's proud of the fact that he's brought up his own son totally different to the cruel way he was raised. But, to be honest, is he just remembering the past how he wants to? Was is his father all that bad? And does he really listen to his own son as much as he thinks? The conclusion is rather moving, but that's not to say that this isn't amusing - far from it. His observations about people who feel it's their right to become grief counsellors to people they don't know are spot on.

The second tale I found to be the least interesting. Son, follows a news photographer as he is given a new brief. Instead of his usual sports pictures, his editor wants him to accompany a features writer as she interviews a number of mediums. Is there life after death? And can these people contact the dead? When the photographer's father keeps giving the mediums messages to pass on to his son, he doesn't really seem surprised by it and instead of asking sensible questions wastes the chance he has to communicate with his father. This story features Robert Glenister, who Frost fans will remember for his portrayal of D.S. Reid. It wasn't Glenister's reading that I disliked, it was just I thought that something more could have been made of this tale.

The third story, The Husband, is interesting as it raises the point that there are always two sides to every story. Andy, the husband, is in hospital recovering from an operation. He seems to have put his wife on a pedestal. She doesn't visit him in hospital, nor send him flowers. In fact he has sent her flowers to her work. It appears that he is the world's most devoted partner and, when he starts to open up to his nurse, you wonder why this fantastic man stays with such a selfish wife. He has forgone his wish to have children so that his wife can concentrate on her career. He seems too good to be true and maybe, just maybe, he is. As he tells his tale, little cracks start to show in their marriage - but is everything his selfish wife's fault? I loved the twist in the tale to this, my favourite, story in the collection.

The Pedant, revolves around a single man who gets annoyed with people who can't do simple crosswords, and those poor souls who make grammatical errors. His friend nominates him for a visit from The Life Groomers - a TV show that helps to remodel men to make them more appealing to women. It seems the TV crew have their work cut out for them - even his friend describes him as a "lonely, pedantic, short-tempered, beardy weirdy". The poor guy is forced into embarrassing social situations with totally the wrong women. He soon starts to fall for someone on the crew, but doesn't really know what to do about it. This is the most humorous in this collection. The focus of this tale is a man who appears to be like a younger version of Victor Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave. He certainly doesn't suffer fools gladly.

The Brother sees a man receiving a letter from his older brother which basically implies that he is coming to take over the family business after their father dies. If this happens the younger brother will loose everything. He starts to panic and get angry about his sibling's insistence on calling himself "the man of the family". He starts to go through their history in his head, and realises why he hates his older brother so much. But has he been a little to hasty?

In the sixth, and final monologue (The Married Man), we are introduced to a vain and self obsessed man who has affairs behind his wife's back and thinks he is clever for getting away with it. We soon discover that his wife is very probably having an affair too, with Ted their friend. Could Ted even be the father to their daughter? As he digs deeper he starts to uncover more and then decides to confront them both. Stuart Milligan (Adam Klaus in the BBC drama Jonathan Creek - Series Two onwards) is wonderful as the clueless man who is caught up so much in his own life that he has failed to spot all the tell tale signs of his wife's apparent long-running affair. Or at the end does this story simply reflect our own paranoid take on the events?

The sad thing is that we can all relate to all six of these characters in some way. There are a few to many elements that you'll recognise as character flaws with your own personality (or maybe it's just me). There are things to love and hate about each character; to admire and pity. At the end of the day this is a fantastic collection of thought provoking monologues.

Darren Rea

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