The week in audio: getting better; Fake Paralympians; Horrific Stories Podcast | Radio

Get better Audible
The Fake Paralympians BBC World Service | BBC Sounds
Horrific Stories Podcast BBC Sounds

Winston Churchill’s “relaxation” with his prostate isn’t what you’d expect to appear, so to speak, in the opening minutes of an ambitious new Audible series. But here is the newly ousted prime minister, played by Wink Taylor, pissing with abandon next to his successor, Clement Attlee (Mike Wozniak), while giving advice on who to choose for his cabinet as Britain emerges from the war. “I woke up once with pneumonia – the news is not always a blessing, because I fear the country is about to find out!”

Get better is about the creation of the NHS, a story that unfolded in optimal conditions for drama: in the dispersing smoke of post-WWII Britain, and between men in possession of perfectly polished vowels and a bum boyo from the booming valleys of the shipping box. Aneurin Bevan was the youngest member of Clement Attlee’s post-war cabinet at 47, known as much for his rebellious charisma as his socialist chops. Bevan is the solid anchor of this 10-part podcast.

“His delivery is often delicious”: Rhod Gilbert. Photography: Rob Parfittb

Playing him is stand-up comedian and game show regular Rhod Gilbert, in his first serious acting role. For reasons relating to my inescapable Welsh I was initially skeptical of the casting – an rrr accent and fame shouldn’t be enough to land the plum roles I cursed from the hills of Monmouthshire one of the areas covered by the name of Gwent. Aneurin Bevan University Board of Health.

But I’ll raise my hand: Gilbert’s casting is inspired. If you’re already familiar with his comedic style, you’ll feel echoes of the dry humor and warmth he exudes when featuring characters like do i have any news for you. His delivery is also often delicious. “Conquer him? he says, of Bevan’s colleague and opponent, Herbert Morrison. “I want Course him more. Later episodes delve into Bevan’s past, avoiding the risk of him turning into an explosive caricature. There’s a flashback to a childhood stutter in episode two and hints of his wandering eye (listen to Neve McIntosh, playing his wife, Scottish MP Jennie Lee, and her pretty sassy tone).

But the series is not just about one man. A subplot centering on an unexploded mortar shell in Manchester and the arrival of Dr. Eva Callaway (played by Bridgerton‘s Kathryn Drysdale) highlights the pressures the poor face when sudden accidents or illnesses strike them. At times this narrative feels like an authoritative parallel (Callaway’s lines from the halls often mirroring those Bevan spouts in parliament), but at least it spells out the need for universal health care in stark, blunt terms. Better are lines that subtly refer to what is happening today: politicians with “big ideas”; people rattling tin cans to raise money for nurses; the Labor government is arguing with itself. It reminds us, powerfully, that things can change.

I also had to keep reminding myself that this was an Audible production, not Aunt Beeb. In a year when Steve McQueen’s incredible films exploring social history and ruthless injustice are essential prime-time viewings, Get better could be bolstered into a perfect Sunday night TV drama.

In terms of public service remit, the BBC’s new World Service series The Fake Paralympians makes a solid contribution to the cause. Launched last week ahead of the Paralympic Games, it tells the story of the Spanish basketball team who won gold in the intellectual disability category at Sydney 2000 – the first time this ranking has been included – before being revealed as having fraudulent members. in their ranks.

Presented by a Paralympic swimmer Dan Pepper, it’s a slow-burning, quietly unleashed documentary. Pepper was 11 in 2000, a young boy from Stockport finding strength, joy and escape in the pool, a world away from the bullies mocking him for his learning disabilities, with a coach who thought he could compete in Athens in 2004. Ray Torres, whom Pepper interviews, had felt the same way about sports as a child, with basketball becoming a friend that didn’t hit or call him. “Things like that don’t go away,” Torres says of the abuse he’s endured.

Dan Pepper, left, with Ray Torres.
Dan Pepper, left, with Ray Torres. Photo: BBC/Simon Maybin

In 2000, Torres was Spain’s captain, trying to allay suspicion about members of his team who kept away from him. When the scandal broke – after some faces were recognized in a photograph of the medalists in the Spanish press – his devastation was palpable. The impacts are also significant, with the intellectual disability category being withdrawn for the next two Games by the International Paralympic Committee, penalizing the career chances of true athletes as well as hopeful youngsters like Pepper. It speaks with emotion of those lost years that never come back, and the production is handled with sensitivity, experts, sportsmen and family members weaving the story together without haste, without sensationalism.

On a final public service tip, the BBC also hid a podcast spin-off from the horror stories Television series from the last weeks of the school holidays. Have been saved! By “we” I mean the parents of young children, of course, not the children themselves (I was once at a party where all the adults were in the living room watching Charles Dickens singing the story of his life on a pastiche of the Smiths while the children played Lego elsewhere). There are 10 16-minute shows here, including one where Henry VIII interviews Anne of Cleves, who teases him about his lack of physical prowess. “Fake news!” he scolds, before ordering porpoise for lunch.


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