Drama hinged on trauma of youth

27th October 2006 at 01:00
Acting techniques used in areas of political unrest are getting results in the UK

Imagine: Play for Today

BBC1, Tuesday, October 31, 10.35-11.15pm

The Roundhouse Theatre in Camden, London, is about to reopen with the production of a play by Jeremy Weller, The Foolish Young Man. The cast consists of actor David Harewood, plus a non-professional group of young people from drop-in centres and pupil referral units who help to develop the script around their own experiences.

Alan Yentob asks Weller to explain the drama techniques that he has already used with groups in Kosovo, and with Arabs and Israelis in Gaza, and we watch the often traumatic rehearsals: adolescents who have spent years on the street may be toughened by life, but their emotions can be terribly close to the surface. Will it be alright on the night, or is Weller about to be shown up as the Foolish Older Man?

"Of course," Yentob concludes, "their lives can't be transformed in one giant leap". However, the process is what counts and in this case it is full of lessons for teachers.

South Bank Show: Sue Townsend

ITV, Sunday, October 29, 11.10pm-12.10am

This week's South Bank Show is an extended interview with Sue Townsend, the bestselling British author of the 1980s.

Adrian Mole is now settled in faintly disappointed middle age, but his creator has lost none of her fire: radical, republican, communist and atheist. She continues to mock the British establishment in her own gentle way but also feels real anger about the mess we are in, notably the "combination of incompetence and control" that she sees as characteristic of our present ruling elite.

Now suffering from ill-health and nearly blind, she has had enough experience of the social services to speak with authority on what is wrong with the country. She recalls her childhood and, with special affection, the public libraries that fed her hunger for books once she had learned to read, thanks not to school but to a bout of mumps and Richmal Crompton's Just William.

An admirable and very English life: you know - and she knows - just where Sue Townsend is coming from.

Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection

BBC2, Tuesday, October 31, 8-8.30pm

Heston Blumenthal, chef and proprietor at the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray (three Michelin stars), gives new meaning to the notion of "domestic science".

In this seven-part series, he searches for perfect ingredients for popular everyday dishes. The search takes him to the University of Reading laboratory, where he tests one of the ingredients in a gas chromatograph, and down on the farm to meet the cousins of the perfect pigs he will be using for his sausages - because these are not any old supermarket bangers; this guy makes his own.

But don't expect any healthy school dinners. Today we have a menu of sausages and mash followed by treacle tart and ice cream. Next week Heston applies science to the Black Forest gateau.

Archive Hour: Suez, the Missing Dimension

BBC Radio 4, Saturday, October 28, 8-9pm

The first of three radio programmes this week on the Suez crisis tells the story of the British disaster in Egypt in 1956 through interviews with some of the main participants. It puts the blame on British Intelligence rather than just Anthony Eden's illness and lack of judgement.

Later in the week, Stephen Sakur gives a portrait of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser, in Revolution on the Nile (BBC Radio 4, 11-11.30am) and the Friday Play, A Conspiracy at Sevres (BBC Radio 4, 9-10pm) tells how Britain, France and Israel secretly conspired to attack Egypt. A lesson from history?

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