By Stephanie Billen
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