Listening Corner

5th May 1995 at 01:00
Please Mrs Butler. Poems by Allan Ahlberg. Music by Colin Matthews. Age group: 511Pounds 2.99 Penguin.

Please Mrs Butler my pencil is broke . . ." words which have elicited laughs of recognition in staffroom and classroom for more than a decade are now available on tape. Allan Ahlberg, successful author and quondam teacher, hits unerringly on the funnybone and close to the knuckle.

Such everyday dilemmas as the absence of scissors - where do they go? - and the migration of clothing - where is Raymond's scarf which his granny knitted? She is very upset I hope you will understand her feelings, it was pure wool - are balanced in his classic collection by somewhat more serious musings. Why are the teachers so comfortable in the staffroom while we are out in the cold fighting? Who did it? It was him, miss, he made me do it! And, most poignantly, "I am in the slow reading group . . . I hate it."

However, although the idea of setting alternate poems to music seems a good one and although they are ably performed by Babette Langford's Young Set, the music on the cassette jars. What the poems have going for them, above all, is a cheeky twist of language, but several of the settings, be they rap or sub-Lloyd Webber, drown verbal in musical turns of phrase. Jan Francis' schoolteacherly tones are ideal for the spoken poems. Would that they had had more chance and that the insistent rhythms of the music had been faded more into the background.

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