Announcer to stage Radio 4 musical

Michael Fenton Stevens as John Humphrys Michael Fenton Stevens' character has 'silver hair, a slight Welsh lilt and swears a lot'

Think John Humphrys with jazz hands or the Shipping Forecast as a show-stopping finale.

Kathy Clugston did before dreaming up her Radio 4 musical, which will premiere this autumn.

An affectionate and funny tribute to the freelance announcer's favourite station, 'But First This - A Musical Homage to Radio 4' is packed with in-jokes, programme names and fully-staged singing and dancing.

Start Quote

So many things are made into musicals these days. Why not Radio 4?”

End Quote Kathy Clugston BBC Announcer

'So many things are made into musicals these days,' Clugston tells Ariel. 'Abba, the Spice Girls, X Factor - why not Radio 4? I'm a massive fan and it's a great subject for parody.'

It's not for the squeamish, however, with a sinister plot in which a new controller threatens, gulp, change that imperils the station. It's up to two brave heroes to unseat her and save the day.

Humphrys saves the day

'The controller bears absolutely no resemblance to Gwyneth [Williams],' insists Clugston, although the pair of protagonists have more than a whiff of familiarity.

'John Humphrys and James Naughtie are such great characters and are central to the story,' says the writer. 'I asked their permission and they readily agreed. There's such a great contrast between them and it was fun to invent a sort of love/hate relationship.'

Former Archers actor Michael Fenton Stevens has been cast as Humphrys, his performance at some early presentations winning over audiences.

Kathy Clugston Kathy Clugston: 'I'm a massive Radio 4 fan'

'They loved him,' laughs Clugston. 'He has silver hair, a slight Welsh lilt and swears a lot. You don't expect John Humphrys to sing and when he does, it's brilliant.'

The show also features 'Nicholas Parsons' and 'Kirsty Young', as well as a trusty announcer, who guides the audience through the show while dishing out comments and asides.

Clugston wrote the script and lyrics during a three-month break from her BBC work at Radio 4, 4 Extra and World Service, and will redraft, for topicality's sake, until the curtain rises on the first night. Composer Desmond O'Connor wrote the tunes.

'I'm quite musical,' says Clugston, who lists the likes of West Side Story, Cabaret and Guys and Dolls among her favourite musicals. 'But I'm not a composer.'

Start Quote

I don't want to dilute it so that it appeals to people who don't know Radio 4”

End Quote Kathy Clugston
Niche enough

She is already a writer, however, having penned magazine articles and a book called A Brief History of Tim. The latter imagines the world minus one letter - a world that starts with the 'Big Bag' and has the 'Ancient Geeks' as one of its early civilisations - to comical effect.

She had to tout her musical around various theatres, before the Watermill in Newbury agreed to stage it with five actors and three musicians.

'Sadly, I have no money to stage a musical,' laments Clugston. 'So we put on presentations to try to sell the idea. The Watermill is a very good venue, right in Radio 4 heartland, that does a lot of new musicals.'

It's set to run for two and a half weeks in October and is selling well, although Clugston admits that the show is most likely to attract a niche crowd.

'I don't want to dilute it so that it appeals to people who don't know Radio 4. I'm hoping there are enough listeners out there to fill the theatre.'

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Features

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.