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Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) Audio CD – Audiobook, 8 Oct 2009


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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd (8 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408427028
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408427026
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 12.4 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 490,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Alan Bennett was first on stage with the Oxford Theatre Group in 1959. He collaborated on the revue "Beyond the Fringe," which opened in Edinburgh in 1960 and then to the West End and Broadway. His collection of diary entries, essays, and reviews, "Writing Home" (1994) was a bestseller. His other works include: "The Wind in the Willows" for the National Theatre, "The Madness of George III," and "Talking Heads."

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Sheenagh Pugh VINE VOICE on 22 Oct. 2009
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Auntie BBC strikes again... no sooner had Alan Bennett's 1966 TV comedy sketch show On the Margin achieved so much critical acclaim that it had to be twice repeated the next year, than the BBC wiped the tapes. This CD compilation is all that remains.

A TV show surviving only in a radio format is generally bad news, but Bennett is so little a visual humorist, and so much a words man, that it hardly matters. Like his famous Talking Heads, this depends on observational, character-pinpointing monologue and dialogue, and it works just as well in audio; in fact anyone who didn't know it was originally made for TV probably would not guess.

Of the 12 tracks, two are very short, an intro and an epilogue, while Track 7 reminds us that sketch shows in those days mostly had a musical interlude, though Bennett still manages to subvert it; while the band plays "In the Sultan's Harem", he is assuring us that we are hearing the Carol Colores Chorale, "the only British string quintet in the advance at El Alamein".

That leaves nine sketches. Some are what might be called tramline dialogues, between people who are not really on the same wavelength, like the rather posh, fey gent trying to send a telegram and the very literal, pedantic post office worker taking down the text, who wants to know the exact spelling of "bottieboos". The best of these is the last, between a woman reading in memoriam notices and planning her own funeral, and an old man listening to her with half an ear while trying to fix the TV. Several others satirise BBC2 arts programmes of the day, which did tend to be solemn and pretentious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 April 2012
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The BBC TV series "On The Margin" originally aired in 1966. It was a show of satirical, political and musical comedy sketches, written and performed by Alan Bennett, with John Sergeant and Virginia Stride, and was an attempt to transfer the highly successful stage review "Beyond the Fringe" to television. The series ran to 6 programmes but sadly became a victim of the BBC's notorious tape recycling policy, this 60-minute collection of the soundtrack from some parts the series being all that remains.

Much (in fact, the best) of the material on the disc is Alan Bennett in monologue. This is classic (albeit clearly early) Bennett writing, with the author taking swipes (albeit affectionate ones) at various aspects of mid-60s' Britain. Much of the material is dated, of course, now but is still remains funny and acerbic in a way that only Bennett seems to be able to pull off. It is also a major testimony to Bennett's writing that an audio-only version of a TV show works as well as it does.

I would expect the disc to appeal mostly to existing Bennett fans, and to those of an older generation, at that, because one probably needs to have lived through the years which the material lampoons to really appreciate just how funny a lot of it is. Casual enquirers into the wonderful world of Alan Bennett would probably do better to look elsewhere first.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Mar. 2010
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the problems with satire shows is that they date faster than any other kind of comedy. On the Margin has the added problem that it was a mildly satirical TV show which has been 'wiped' in its entirety, with only audio recordings of several sketches remaining. Unlike the BBC's recent lost Hancock episodes, the sound quality is good enough, but the loss of the images is a problem and (as with the Hancocks) one that the CD sleeve notes don't address. Thus we're left with some embryonic Alan Bennett humour - more gently ribbing than scathing and at times almost like an affectionate but diluted and less surreal version of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Not Only But Also - that tackles some overfamiliar subjects in a now overfamiliar way with added gaps where we have to guess at what the studio audience are laughing. Hardcore Bennett fans may get more out of it, but while there are some sporadic laughs he clearly still had some way to go before hitting his stride.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By pacem et amorem VINE VOICE on 21 Jan. 2010
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Good old-fashioned word-play which is, after-all, what Alan Bennett is good at! This CD compilation, the only recording of Bennett's critically acclaimed 'On the Margin' that is in existence, may not be a belly-laugh a minute but it is certainly worth listening to. Upon pressing play, the listener is transported back to an era when the radio was still a powerful force for entertaining the nation and programming was of a high standard.
Whether you are a Bennett fan or not, this is a good introduction to his humour and to the radio humour of the 1960s. I'm not sorry to have it amongst my collection.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is all that remains of On the Margin, a casualty of the BBC's horrendous tape-wiping policy that has robbed us of so much (presumably) classic TV comedy. The CD collects all the remaining audio from the small screen series, which aired in late 1966 and was such a success it was repeated twice the following year.

Whilst drawing on the talents of John Sergeant and Virginia Stride, the series is unmistakably the work of Alan Bennett, fresh from the runaway success of Beyond the Fringe. His ear for dialogue, dry sense of observation and predilection for wordplay are much in evidence, particularly in the highlight, a lengthy portrait of a 30-something working class writer, 'A Writer's World'. As well as stuffing the monologue with absurdist asides ("My father was a miner, my mother IS a miner") and attaching an undercurrent of melancholic pathos, Bennett delights in lampooning the pretensions of wordsmiths and ends on a delightfully groansome final pun. The sketch appears to be a key influence on Monty Python's 'Working Class Playwright' sketch, which it predates by three years.

The set starts off shakily, with a sketch that edges towards Frankie Howerd territory (The Telegram), while other excerpts are antiquated in style or contain cultural references that render them incomprehensible - most notably the vastly overlong Life & Times in NW. Elsewhere the lack of visuals make it a touch difficult to ascertain exactly what's going on. But despite all that, Bennett's formidable talent makes this eminently worthwhile. There isn't a skit here that's not salvaged by some moment of verbal brilliance or sublime silliness. And the best of these positively drip with quality.

Flawed, certainly, but recommended regardless - Alan Bennett fans should find themselves richly rewarded.
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