BBC Radio 4, 16 September 2011
It is my privilege to be able to add to the chorus of critical approval
for Julie Mayhew's Radio Drama Award-nominated play.
Albert and Renie (Richard Briers, Edna Dore) have been living in the same flat in
a tower-block for fifty-five years. Now the block is due to be demolished, and the couple have to be rehoused. Christopher
Schmidt, an ex-DJ turned council officer (Joe Armstrong) is saddled with the task of evicting them. After finally gaining
entry to the house, he finds every room piled to the ceiling with objects: everything the couple have
ever owned and cherished since their courting days in the early years of World War Two. As Christopher tries
to help Albert and Renie de-clutter their flat, he discovers that everything has an emotional value for
them - reminders of days gone by, both sad and happy.
Mayhew contrasts this plot with Christopher's personal life, as he tries to set up
home with girlfriend Janine (played by Mayhew herself). While both of them agree on the need to rid themselves of objects
reminding them of their past, Christopher cannot do so; he sells his old decks to a dealer, but buys them back again soon
afterwards. This experience helps him Albert and Renie's way of life: everyone needs objects that - unlike materials preserved
in the virtual world - can be touched, smelt, savoured and weighed.
Despite the old couple's efforts, they are eventually evicted and forced to set up
a new home elsewhere. But at least Christopher has understood their state of mind. The play ends happily with all four characters
looking forward to a bright future with most of their treasured possessions intact. With luck they should be passed
down to future generations.
Mayhew emphasized the importance attached to objects by having Christopher reading
out a list of Albert and Renie's objects on various occasions; this formed a counterpoint to the dialogue of the play. Director
Justine Potter emphasized the significance of the past for all the characters with a musical soundtrack comprised of old songs
from the 1950s and 1960s, including hits by Dean Martin and Perry Como.
Affectionately written, sympathetically performed and fluidly directed, A Shoebox
of Snow was a truly memorable event. I sincerely hope that Radio 4 will repeat it in the near future.