Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
Cast: John Finnemore, Michael Palin.
The trouble is with the 20th Century, there are just too many candidates for the title of most destructive human to walk the Earth. Some merit their position purely by being in a position of power, by sending their armies into invade and cause annihilation of a particular people, of lives wiped out and their history’s erased purely out of suspicion and greed. For some though the misery they cause comes down to public arson, of dismantling the nation’s heritage all in the name of so called progress; Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher undoubtedly belongs in the column, and so too does the murderer of the Railways, Dr. Richard Beeching.
The time of the railways was arguably past its golden age, it had gone into terminal decline and was at best becoming, to some eyes, an obsolete archaic dragon which was spending more than it was bringing in. It was this thought that could be looked upon today as allowing the disenfranchisement of many villages that were once served by a railway and to whom now relied on buses and cars, the great answer to the public purse, make people buy noise polluting motorcars and make more roads.
It also destroyed a sense of community and in John Finnemore’s The Wroxton Box, it is that community that was worth preserving, the passing down of local knowledge between one generation and the next and sometimes, even with the unspoken shadow of cuts to the nation’s railway hanging in the air, even the sense of friendship and humour was at risk of being lost.
The Wroxton Box plays much upon the delight of bickering and teasing between two different personalities, the older more respectful to the job of signalman and the traditions it entails and the post war familiarity of those who saw the world as one in which it perfectly acceptable to mock and deride the old values, even to the point of sarcasm and slight insincerity of their own cultural pursuits.
Like Dr. Beeching undoubtedly would have learned though, you should never see the value of something’s worth down to pounds and pence, to do so betrays ignorance of the subject and for Michael Palin, a casting choice that nobody could argue with, his performance as the older, wiser but put upon by young insults is pure beauty; a match made in heaven.
As a final parting gift to the fans of John Finnemore, The Wroxton Box is a fitting end to the second series of two handed comedy plays, they are also a reminder that great comedy doesn’t have to be expansive, poured over by a huge cast and written by a gargantuan team of writers, it just needs the genius of one person to make a nation laugh.
Ian D. Hall