Page 8, 20th March 1992

20th March 1992
Page 8
Page 8, 20th March 1992 — Carla's charms outlive the cheese-cloth and flares

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Carla's charms outlive the cheese-cloth and flares

BROADCAST NEWS by Deborah Thomas

I HAVEN'T much liked anything by Carla Lane since The Liver Birds. And at the same time that l was avidly savouring each episode of that series. I also considered cheese-cloth shirts and flared brown corduroy trousers to be the height of style, SO my taste then was far from trustworthy.

My problem with Ms Lane ever since has been that her comedies seemed to be either thinly disguised slabs of autobiography like Butterflies or unreconstructed nostalgia for a lost style of working class lifelike Bread.

Both biography and nostalgia came with large doses of complimentary preaching on a limited number of themes dear to Ms Lane's heart. Undoubtedly

sharp wit lung lay buried in a quagmire of set-piece speeches about female or animal liberation

which contradicted characterisation and hindered the flow of the dialogue.

Screaming, (BBC!, Sunday) being the story of three ladies of a certain age sharing a house, would appear to be no exception. Annie (Gwen Taylor) has had "a husband. a house, Tesco's and desertion".

Rachel (Jill Baker) is a widow in conspicuous mourning for her beloved Ralph.

And the spiritual, cerebral Beatrice, played by Penelope Wilton, has never married.

They are, basically. Liver Birds grown up and transplanted to a county town. Where once there was an electricity coin meter, now we find a period feature fireplace. For TV dinners of baked beans on toast, substitute tonelloni with a pesto sauce.

And, like the original Liver Birds, I liked them. Not without reservation.

For example, they suffered from Ms Lane's characteristic love of long and unsuitable extended metaphors that real people never use.

Such as: "We've been out

there jumping the hurdles, flaring our nostrils, backing and broncing. We're home now gracing if you like."

And there was one dreadfully unconvincing set-piece speech. Rachel is the keep fit instructor at a "recuperative hospital" for women recovering from mental illness.

Her charges, hitherto unmotivated, inarticulate and mutually suspicious, suddenly rounded on her to assert with force, eloquence and a single voice, that silly ball games are an inappropriate treatment because they are victims of the male establishment: "we've been mishandled by life, by love, by justice".

Thanks, Carla, message received loud and clear.

However, strong, vibrant and sympathetic characters won the day for Screaming. And the first episode also boasted a clever double twist. All the while Rachel was singing the praises of the late, great Ralph, Annie and Beatrice were troubled by their own black-and-white flashback memories of him memories of illicit sexual encounters.

Then, on the first anniversary of Ralph's death, Rachel announced that he wasn't really dead at all he had just left her, but she found that too humiliating to admit.

Which means he could come back, setting the cat among the pigeons or should that be the pigeon among the cats?

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