Customer Reviews


50 Reviews
5 star:
 (11)
4 star:
 (17)
3 star:
 (15)
2 star:
 (6)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a minor writer
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,...
Published on 22 Oct 2009 by Sheenagh Pugh

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old fashioned, gentle humour
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...
Published on 21 Jan 2010 by pacem et amorem


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a minor writer, 22 Oct 2009
By 
Sheenagh Pugh "Sheenagh Pugh" (Shetland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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character-pinpointing monologue and dialogue, and it works just as well in audio; in fact anyone who didn't know it was originally made for TV probably would not guess.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. These include the gem on track 5, an "interview" with a "Northern writer" whose residence in Ibiza does not prevent him posing sentimentally as an unspoilt working-class lad from Doncaster. "I suppose we were all writers in our family, but I was the first who felt an urge to express myself on paper rather than at the coalface. I'm a writer but I'm still a miner at heart. I suppose in a very real sense, I'm a miner writer."

This is Bennett at his most accurate and acerbic. Two other sketches target what might be called the BBC2 view of the arts. One is a monologue, a very Betjemanesque poet reading a poem about going to the toilet. The humour comes from the mismatch of style and subject matter, but the Betjeman style is reproduced with such clinical accuracy that it actually ends up being curiously moving, as that poet's depictions of everyday city life sometimes are. The third, a straight send-up of a pretentious arts programme, feels like an easier target.

If I have a criticism to make of this compilation, in fact, it is that it goes for the same targets - middle-class affectation and hypocrisy - a bit too often. But Lord knows, nobody does it better than Bennett; I nearly did myself a mischief when the customer in the antique shop, who has heard that "camp" is the latest trend but clearly doesn't know what it means, asks the dealer (for whom the word might have been invented) if he has any of that sort of thing on the premises. Admittedly you might need to have been around in the sixties, as I was, to appreciate that not many people who used the word did know, at the time, what it meant.

There's a warning, to the effect that some of the humour "reflects the era when it was made". This can only refer to two passing remarks with a possible racial connotation, both in character. In the first, the laugh is quite clearly at the expense of the speaker, who affects to be very sophisticated and refined but blows his cover with this remark. In the second, it emerges that the old man trying to fix the TV has been assuming the contrast function is wrong, because the faces he sees onscreen aren't the colour he expected. Which clearly isn't a joke about race at all, but about an old man who is both flummoxed by technology and hidebound by his own preconceptions (it sounds very like something Bennett might have observed and recorded from life). The warning, in fact, is totally unnecessary, not to mention a basic misunderstanding of what drives the humour.

There have been few writers in any medium as sharp and thought-provoking as Bennett, and many of these characters - the poseur writer, the lawyer considerably less honest than his peeping-Tom client, the woman whose daydreams all seem to involve planning her own funeral - will surely live in the memory. This may not be Talking Heads, but some of it feels like a try-out for that. Well worth having.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old fashioned, gentle humour, 21 Jan 2010
By 
pacem et amorem (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Early Bennett sketch show is erratic but sometimes exceptional, 4 Jan 2010
By 
R. Burin "royal_film" (Harrogate, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Benevolent gentle poking fun, 29 Nov 2009
By 
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
On the Margin

For once the laughter isn't canned, it was purely spontaneous in those days thankfully. This gently amusing collection of sketches takes you out of yourself and quietly entertains in a vintage kind of way. The very first sketch annoyed me a little but I was not perhaps yet in the right frame of mind for the niggling clipped accent and persistent squeezing of the last drop of the jokes in The Telegram, this one which might have put me off if I hadn't been prepared to be patient. It seemed the most dated. Childish in it's innuendo.

Most of the gags do survive the test of time happily. However it wouldn't do to be in a pin cushion mood ready to take offence. Let it wash over you.

I can remember my father laughing like mad at it in 1966, I think that humour was generally less risqué then and more innocent when trying to be shocking.

I think this is worth a try and may well take you back in time after getting into the mood. Hands off Bageera did make me chuckle - I began to warm to the theme. I was a member of the Guide Movement and so the in jokes were very funny. I also liked the perennial subject matter of Life and Times in NW1, property prices, doing up houses, showing off to friends at dinner parties. `Joan love' in the kitchen fiddling with the ratouille shouting her answers to her husband's called questions was certainly rib tickling. The conversation piece.. well, yes.

Bric a Brac pushed the boundaries further with a camp bent...Then the Lonely Pursuit - a Writers World was a classic interview with the writer in Ibitha, taking the pith in every way.

The Defending Counsel was a gem, relevant today I imagine and very well done. Going to the Excuse me was as another reviewer has already noted a la J Betjeman, perfectly parodied.

The back and forth of The Critics raced away with the quick fire atmosphere of an up its own arts discussion. Hurray.

So stick with it and relax into another time - it will be worth the trouble.

I listened several times in a row and got completely into the mood, hearing more witticisms each time. I even began to think like them!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Humour which will put a smile on your face and lift the spirit., 18 Nov 2009
By 
Mr. J. Ward (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Most of the material in this CD was new to me, although I had heard the telegram sketch before.
As an ardent listener to current BBC satirical humour, first impressions are that this CD seems to belong to another world, and perhaps it does. The humour is refreshingly devoid of swearing and is good humoured. It is not one line obvious humour but is crafted observational humour.
Yes,the material is 'time stamped', because it was recorded in the mid sixties, and society was very different. Was the content 'On the Margin' back then? I cannot say, it was before my time.
The sketches clearly targeted the frictions in society as it began its transformation from post war austerity, towards the society we now live in. The topics are just as relevant today.
Recording quality is good, but these are soundtracks of the original TV sketches which obviously have lost the visual humour content, however sit back and allow the superb quality of the writing and masterly delivery flesh out the characters and the locations as you listen.
I first heard the CD whilst driving, and missed some of the `tongue in cheek' humour, the innuendo, and the double entendre. My advice would be, put your feet up, and take time to listen. The sketches are dialogue rich and written and delivered in such an intimate way, the listener becomes the 'fly on the wall'.
In conclusion, It is humour which despite being dated by the passage of years can still give enjoyment, perhaps not the 'laugh out loud' humour it may have once been, but humour which will put a smile on your face and lift the lift the spirit. The only downside to the CD is that it leaves you wanting more.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious precursor to Python, Fry and Laurie and more, 17 Nov 2009
By 
J. Baldwin "Reader" (Dundee, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've long been an admirer of Alan Bennett's work - the man is a genius able to write comedy and drama, often in the same sentence. The sad thing is, the BBC and ITV have loads of his material somewhere just waiting for release on DVD. Hopefully they're not waiting till he's gone before releasing it.
One body of work that no longer exists in the archives, at least in video format, is On the Margin, a sketch show from the 60s with its heritage in Beyond the Fringe, the revue show he did with others who since went on to fame and glory (I'll leave it to you to look them up!)

I'd been aware of On The Margin in a "TV trivia" sort of way but because of the lack of footage I'd never hoped to see it, or as it turns out, hear it.
These off air recordings are excellent quality. The sound production is clearly TV quality rather than Radio 4 which lends it a certain nostalgic feel, but it's not an issue.

The sketches themselves are often brilliant. Listen to these and you get a sense of perspective for Monty Python or, more accurately perhaps, Fry & Laurie. The sketches have an almost surreal air while managing to poke fun at society which, though we're forty years on (no pun intended), still ring true today.
There's a sketch about two guest at a dinner party who are given a tour of a house the owner are gentrifying - something Bennett writes about in his first volume of diaries. The pretentiousness of the couple and the hinted-at carnal affairs of the wife are wicked.
A sketch set in an antiques shop is also very funny, the effeminate shop keeper a little un-PC by today's standards but to anyone who's lived in Brighton, oh so true.

My favourite sketch is probably The Telegram, which is Ronnie Barker-esque in execution. Just Bennett speaking to an unheard telegram operator dictating a message home to his loved one... take a listen, you won't be disappointed.

The CD comes with a warning about the humour reflecting the times. I assume it means the antique shop keeper though there are also two references to "darkies" (apologies). However, the characters using the term are being poked fun at for their naive but nonetheless worryingly casual racism. The joke is on them.

Highly recommended, whether you're a fan of Bennett's or of British comedy. A hole in its history has been fixed!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Salvaged elements of a reputedly great TV series: a few gems, 16 Nov 2009
By 
r0ng0r0ng0 "r0ng0r0ng0" (France) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you only half pay attention to the CD then it could be a contemporary Radio 4 comedy recording: a string quartet introduces each sketch, we hear the live studio audience (I am guessing) laugh along. Listen a little closer and you will make out the unmistakable tones of Alan Bennett. Do a double-take perhaps, to pick out John Sergeant,from the days before he was a pundit or a hoofer. In fact (and the sleeve notes didn't make it clear enough for me to realise this) we are not listening to a radio program at all - but to parts of the soundtrack for a TV series. Other than the script these are the only elements which survived the BBC's myopic mid-70s policy of saving cash by taping over old material. When it was released in 1966 "On the Margin" apparently got fab reviews and was so popular that the series was repeated twice in the following year.

How much can one appreciate the charm of the original from this fragment? I think the answer depends on how much you are willing to put in: without the original visual elements you have to work a little harder to understand what is going on. TV of this era required longer attention spans from its audience: more akin to what we would expect only in a theatre today. Listening while driving to work or cooking a meal may not work. I am giving this CD only 3 stars because I suspect that most prospective listeners will not be sufficiently motivated. Exceptions may be those who remember the original series and want to be reminded of it,those who are keen collectors of Alan Bennett's work and lovers of early radio comedy. To be fair there are some excerpts (such as "The Telegram" and "The Defending Counsel") which remain accessible by virtue of being concise, straight comedy. The more extended character portraits require more of an effort.

Bennett had actually risen to fame several years before this with "Beyond the Fringe" and the title "On the Margin" gives an indication that this was intended as a (probably slightly more quirky) sequel. The script has the mixture of satire and affectionate portraits of British life that has become a hallmark of the author and some of the observations and jokes have worn well. Buy if you are a serious Alan Bennett fan or have one in your life.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars an absolute treasure thankfully rescued, 27 Oct 2009
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This BBC archive salvaged from goodness knows where is worthy of a place in anybody's museum of British humour.
Alan Bennett has long been known as a genius of observation of the great British eccentric and has passed on this gift to the likes of Victoria Wood as well as all those wonderful actresses that he has written for namely Patricia Routledge, Thora Hird etc.
This collection is so good I have not stopped playing since it arrived and have found myself helpless with laughter. I had completely forgotten how brilliant some of these sketches were expecially "Telegram" a monolgue that brings tears to my eyes the minute I hear Bennett's wonderful stiff upper middle class voice dictating a ribald telegram over the phone, also reminiscent of some of the writing of Joyce Grenfell ~ same territory.

For me this CD is like a dream come true as I really have not heard some of this material since the 60s and they are all so filled with camp innuendo it is enough to make your maiden aunt blush.

Listen to the scout leader sketch Hands off Bageera and you will be transported to a time before P.C. choked on its own primness and the interview with the writer for the piece The Lonely Pursuit predicts Bennett's own brilliant later writings Talking Heads.

The poem Going to the Excuse Me pastiches the great Sir John Betjeman, a foavourite of Bennett's and the camp antique dealer from Camden Passage will tick all the boxes of gay stereotyping without causing the slightest offence or raised eyebrow.

Whoever committed the unforgivable crime of over recording the other episodes of this excellent satirical series is culpable of a great crime against comedy

This would make an ideal Christmas gift for anyone who has even a seed of a sense of humour so don't just sit there reading this but tick the order box and experience one of the funniest CDs you will ever find
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting artefact of 60s comedy and early Bennett, 2 Jan 2010
By 
Siriam (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As the product description identifies, this is a rare find being two 30 minute shows out of a total six episode BBC radio comedy series broadcast in 1966, since the rest of the series has been lost under the BBC's re-use of tapes for later recordings. While the series was it seems repeated twice the following year I cannot recall it having the impact of many other popular radio shows that I listened to around that time. The reason is not hard to understand based on the limited evidence here.

With Alan Bennet as the main performer and writer the show epitomises his dry observation and understated digs at the England of that period, which 40 years on is hard to often relate to unless you lived through that time. Whether it is spoofing the arts critics show which started being popular fare on TV and radio in the late 60s commenting on nudity; the sending of a telegram with abbreviated sexual innuendos to save money; a male voyeur being prepared by his barrister for trial or a scout leader chastising a wayward scout, the poking at the sexual mores of the time are fully reflected in the title of the series "On the margin".

While it is tragic that the BBC reusing of tapes policy resulted in unwanted destruction of many historic recordings, I suspect not too many people would want to experience the whole series based on the taster available here. Never the less, it is fascinating as an early taster of Bennett's wry observations on British society.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable release, 28 Nov 2009
By 
Troy Tempest - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In what seems to be a developing pattern the BBC have released another CD which consists of bringing back a TV series that had previously been considered to be wiped from the archives. For historians of entertainment this is great but how does this stand up for the casual listener? Well, the pedigree of this release is obviously fine with Alan Bennett writing the scripts - and indeed the CD notes tell us far more about Mr Bennett than the series itself. The sound quality (something that can be a bit hit and miss with this kind of recording) is OK.

What did surprise me was that this emerged at around the time of the satire boom yet I don't feel that this really meets the standards set by other comedy programmes in the 60's. This may well be why the tapes were wiped - I don't know.. Interestingly the sleeve notes state that "..some of the humour on this recording reflects the era in which it was first broadcast" - an unusual warning / disclaimer. However I came away feeling that this was difficult to get into and it may be the reason why.

Overall I think for the serious comedy collector or enthusiast this will be a welcome addition to their collection.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio)
Alan Bennett's 'On the Margin' (BBC Audio) by Alan Bennett (Audio CD - 8 Oct 2009)
£9.25
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews