Ra­dio

By Stephanie Billen

The Observer - The New Review - - Television -

Fans of this year’s per­spi­ca­cious Reith lec­turer Mar­garet MacMil­lan can hear her in con­ver­sa­tion with Michael Berke­ley on (Sun­day, Ra­dio 3, 12noon). On the cen­te­nary of the 1918 ar­mistice, she dis­cusses how the first world war “still casts a shadow over our times” and re­flects on the para­dox of wars in­spir­ing great mu­sic, lit­er­a­ture and art. Her mu­sic choices in­clude works by Strauss, Tip­pett and Puc­cini as well as Ravel’s dis­turb­ing piece La valse. While not in­tended as a com­men­tary on the first world war, it was writ­ten soon af­ter­wards and con­tains what MacMil­lan calls “abrupt, jazzy mo­ments”, con­vey­ing a sense of dis­in­te­gra­tion. The his­to­rian sug­gests we could be waltz­ing into disas­ter now, as she finds par­al­lels be­tween to­day’s “ag­gres­sive na­tion­alisms” and in­ter­na­tional ten­sions that led to war over a cen­tury ago.

(Mon­day, Ra­dio 4, 9.45am) marks the start of a week-long se­ries ex­plor­ing the global legacy of the 1918 peace agree­ment. In this thought-pro­vok­ing opener, his­to­rian Heather Jones trans­ports us to the French for­est where del­e­gates signed the treaty. While the ar­mistice was a cause for cel­e­bra­tion, Jones ar­gues that “in­ter­war Eu­rope never truly moved from the ar­mistice to peace” and that this mem­o­rable meet­ing cre­ated not so much an end­ing to war as a “tran­sient pause”.

The past threat­ens to catch up with a suc­cess­ful chil­dren’s writer in an ab­sorb­ing drama, (Tues­day, Ra­dio 4. 2.15pm), by Thomas Ec­cle­share. Rachael Stir­ling plays a pub­lisher de­ter­mined to per­suade her reclu­sive pro­tege, Heather (Char­lotte Melia), to move into the lime­light. This clever, twist­ing play raises in­trigu­ing ques­tions about the abil­ity of sto­ries to tran­scend their au­thor­ship.

Mus­lim standup Tez Ilyas re­turns for a third se­ries of his (Thurs­day, Ra­dio 4, 11pm), start­ing by fo­cus­ing on the mo­ments you would change if you could go back in time; per­son­ally he would love to come up with the per­fect re­sponse to an au­di­ence mem­ber who dumb­founded him with a racist joke. In a week dom­i­nated by Re­mem­brance pro­grammes, it is fun to in­dulge in Ilyas’s friv­o­lous “timey-wimey, wib­bly-wob­bly stuff”. The plan to use his time-trav­el­ling taxi to carry Theresa May back to a civil­i­sa­tion built on danc­ing is par­tic­u­larly ir­re­sistible.

Time trav­eller: Tez Ilyas. Graeme Robert­son for the Guardian

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