John Finnemore’s Double Acts: Mercy Dash. Radio Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Julia McKenzie, Gus Brown.

The point of comedy is that it has to be seen as possible, that the situations we encounter in today’s world can traverse the boundaries and still be funny no matter the time or setting, for the modern viewers can claim programmes such as Only Fools and Horses explore the world that it inhabited to such a point that many of the scrapes encountered by the loveable Trotter rogues can still be seen to be relevant almost 40 years after their first airing. It has criss-crossed the times it was set and is able to make people laugh; the same is said for any programme in which today’s circumstances can still be seen for what they are, no matter what context they are set in, it is why programmes such as Fawlty Towers, Yes Prime Minister or even the hit American series Frasier, still works.

Modern British television comedy seems to find ways to disregard that sentiment, aside from a couple of truly inspiring comedies, they seem to be written for the shock/abuse angle, it therefore comes as no surprise that radio is the place to receive the daily dose of well observed comedy, satire or just the gentle humour in which even the sense of an elder member of society can teach a life lesson to someone who need help.

John Finnemore’s Mercy Dash is perhaps one of the writer’s more sedate, less boisterous affairs, less punctuated by stirring one liners but still nonetheless a play in which the point of the joke is delivered with unaltered precision. Fans of his Double Acts series will knowingly understand that the set up is there from the start, that the evergreen Julia McKenzie delves deep into the character’s seemingly issues with word aphasia and the issues with communication when a young man asks to borrow some money so he can get the train from Wimborne to Winchester.

It is the sweetness of the journey that the listener cannot but help think kindly and with affection to the two sharing the journey, one a woman to whom her own son is not on her level of thinking, and the other, a man to whom deceit was his intent but who eventually sees the spark of conversation and becomes in tune with the voice left unheard by the son.

In very much the same way that Ronnie Barker excelled at bringing characters to whom a flaw was endearing to the screen, so too does John Finnemore on radio; his popular series Cabin Pressure exalted that point, now in Double Acts’ Mercy Dash the journey continues.

Ian D. Hall