Friday, 5 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Helsinki / Writer's Guild Award



- Helsinki and Gdansk were swapped in the broadcast order when David Tyler the producer somehow managed to get the amazing Alison Steadman to play Awful Auntie Ruth. The show was still young, and we were keen for people to notice it, and maybe even to review it. Papers don't review radio shows much, but when they do they tend to review the first episode of the series - so we thought we'd better put the episode with Alison Steadman (plus of course Simon Greenall and Matt Green) up front. (This was all still pre-Sherlock, of course. Somehow, we didn't tend to worry as much about people noticing the show from series three…)

- Awful Auntie Ruth's surname is Gregson, which is a reference to Bertie Wooster's terrifying Aunt Agatha Gregson 'the one who chews broken bottles, and wears barbed wire next to the skin'. His 'good and deserving', - but also strong-willed and sharp-tongued - Aunt Dahlia, meanwhile, lives at Brinkley Chase… which is where Carolyn will later invite Herc for a dog walk in Ottery. There's a lot of Aunt Dahlia in Carolyn.

- This is the episode where I discovered the power of an upset Arthur. Whilst planning, one of my main preoccupations is to work out what everyone wants over the episode, and in each scene. I've said elsewhere, I think, that I found that the show worked best when Martin's 'want' ('Desire' isn't quite the right word, and nor necessarily is 'objective' or 'need', so to myself I tend to use the ungrammatical 'Want') is abstract, emotional, and if possible contradictory… and Douglas' is simple, practical, and if possible directly related to his own comfort or gain. Carolyn often ends up with the 'cast grown-up's' Want of keeping the show on the road, and the company in the black; though some of her most fun episodes are the ones where that's not the case (Jo'burg, Ottery, Uskerty.) Arthur's are usually the simplest, because he's not exactly a driven man, and tend to be things like 'Arthur wants to help' or 'Arthur wants to enjoy the trip'. But when, once in a while, there's something he really does want, like a present for his Dad in St Petersburg, or a cake for his Mum in Helsinki (Huh… hadn't quite realised how thematically linked those two were…) the novelty of it makes, I think, for quite strong and emotionally charged plots.

Also, if you insult any of the crew, Arthur will defend them. But if you insult his Mum, he will throw seventy-five Euros of mainly chocolate thing at you.

Deleted line:

When Arthur is hiding in the cafe, practising what to say when he leaps out with the cake…



ARTHUR:          (MUFFLED) 'Ta-da! I've made you a cake, but it works better with your eyes shut.' 'Ta-da! I've made you a cake, but I'm really sorry.' Or maybe not make a speech… 




In other news, I'm delighted to say that John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme has been nominated for a Writer's Guild Award. Interesting, one of the other nominees is Marcus Brigstocke's excellent show The Brig Society, produced by one D. Tyler. This could get bloody…














17 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know, Milo is killing us Finns. No one has figured it out why you'd call a Finn Milo (if he is one, and if that's the correct spelling). A reference to something, but what is it? It's still keeping us awake at night.

Yours, Still Confused in Finland & Enjoying the Bear Facts

John Finnemore said...

Dear SCiF&EtBF

Milo isn't his name, it's his nickname. It's a reference to Milo Minderbinder, a character in the novel Catch 22, who creates a similar chain of exchanges to the one Milo and Douglas are part of here. I hope this information allows the proud nation of Finland to rest easy in their beds at last. Sweet dreams, Finns.

MartinPic said...

Good referencing.

I'm now going to plough through the names of other incidental characters in the show to see if I can spot any references before you let us know.

And well done on the nomination, richly deserved; it's been my favourite Souvenir series along with number 1, I think. But they're all good.

Kathryn said...

Alison Steadman almost steals this episode, against some very stiff competition. Coincidentally, I've seen her in Abigail's Party, Life Is Sweet and Nuts In May just in the last fortnight (I'm a big Mike Leigh fan), as well as in Helsinki, and her performance is completely different in each one. You wouldn't believe it was the same actress - except that she clearly knows an excellent script when she sees it! Somebody needs to hire Alison & Stephanie to play sisters again, so we could all bow down before their brilliance.

Also, I was hoping we would finally learn the reason Carolyn & Ruth stopped talking 15 years ago, but I guess now we will never know.

Ximena said...

Brinkely COURT. Sorry, couldn't let that one go. I love Aunt Dahlia.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for explaining about Milo in the comment above - it was driving me crazy, too. (I'm ashamed to say that I have read the novel but never got anywhere near joining the dots.) The explanation doesn't cover Milo's accent, which is anything but Finnish (it's not Swedish, either), but I guess few people can tell and these foreign accents rarely are precision work anyway. :-)

Philippa Sidle said...

Hurray for PGW references! I'd never noticed the Brinkely connection, but Carolyn as Aunt Dahlia... perfect.

Congratulations on the nomination.

Alex G said...

If we're spotting echoes before they're mentioned, I think there's an influence from Roxanne (the film, not the song) in "Limerick". I wouldn't call it a reference as such, but something happens in that episode which also happens in the film.

Melanie said...

Congrats. Going to really miss this so much

Anonymous said...

You sir, have made an extended string of crap days a little brighter with each of these posts, much as the series itself made a series of utterly soul-crushing days survivable when I first started listening to the show.

riflet said...

Thanks for doing these ruminstions on each Cabin Pressure episode.

I have a question about casting in the Helsinki episode. The actor playing Philip (the "deaf" husband of Auntie Ruth) isn't identified over the closing music.

Who played Philip in this episode?

Thanks for everything!

CECooper said...

I am presently turning my spouse into a major Cabin Pressure fan. He has commandeered my complete set of Cabin Pressure CDs and is binge listening in the run-up to Zurich. He laughed so hard during Helsinki that he woke up the neighbors.

I will be moving him on to the Souvenir Programme CDs in January...

Trina Dubya said...

YES! I thought Ruth's last name was a reference to Aunt Agatha. I didn't connect Aunt Dahlia with Carolyn, though, which makes total sense to me now that I think about it. (No wonder I like her so much.)

Narr said...

I am delighted beyond measure at discovering you are a Wodehouse fan too. All the best people are. :D

Jo McEvedy said...

Have just listened again, on my new CDs. On of the things I love about this episode is the way Carolyn's accent gradually drifts back to her (presumably) Lancashire sweet-shop roots the longer she spends with her horrible sister!

Anonymous said...

When I first heard 'Helsinki' I was convinced that Ruth was played by Patricia Routledge. Was that deliberate on Alison Steadman's part? Certainly, as well as overtones of Aunt Agatha, I felt there was a little of Mrs Bucket's (pronounced Bouquet!) pompous obstinacy in Ruth.

I think there might be a little of Bertie Wooster in Arthur, though Wooster's fate at the hands of his various aunts is more akin to that of poor Martin.

Not related, but I love the way Carolyn accidentally snaps back into her native accent when talking to her sister. It sound more like Yorkshire, than Lancashire to me, though. (I say that as a native Yorkshire person...who doesn't have the accent!)

Anonymous said...

*sounds

and please forgive the strangely-placed commas.