Uncle Fred in the Springtime by P. G. Wodehouse, dramatized by Archie Scottney

Contact Us

BBC Radio 4, 22-29 April 2012
Another all-star production fron the Jarvis and Ayres stable (their last entry in the Classic Serial slot was England, Their England at the end of 2011). The treatment was much the same as the earlier adaptation, with an all-star cast (including Alfred Molina, Rufus Sewell, Ian Ogilvy and Jarvis himself) exercising their vocal skills in a farcical tale involving multiple changes of identity, love, money, and Lord Emsworth's prize pig (the Empress of Blandings).
What emerged quite tangibly from Martin Jarvis' production was the sheer unreality of the Wodehousian world, in which crusty baronets try to assert their authority over dominant spouses, young penniless men strive to marry their intended partners, and those unfortunate enough to be born in the so-called 'lower orders' are satirized for their lack of behavioural finesse. It is a class-conscious society, as rigidly divided into town and country the world of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Like Wilde's Jack (aka Ernest) Worthing, the characters assume different identities, depending on geographical location; this causes considerable comic confusion, especially when the characters' assumed identities are discovered.
The production contained some good performances: Jarvis harrumphed occasionally as Lord Emsworth, in a tone very reminiscent of Sir Ralph Richardson; Molina had a fine time as Uncle Fred, who for some sophisticated reason decided to impersonate leading surgeon Sir Roderick Glossop, once he got to Blandings; while Jared Harris was a magnificently oleaginous Baxter. But I did feel that the majority of the cast's marked RP accents sounded forced and unnatural. The great Wodehousian interpreters on television and radio, such as Ian Carmichael, Richard Briers, John Alderton or Hugh Laurie never had to strain to get laughs; they made it seem as if they had been born to the upper class way of life, but found it difficult to adjust to the vagaries of the world around them. They were always concocting schemes, but very few of them actually succeeded. Hence their need for the steadying influence of a good butler, such as Reginald Jeeves.