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Dear Ladies: Mystery Weekend

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Today a post about a TV programme which I cannot believe I haven't written about here before - although I think that may be the fear I have of writing about these shows, that I will write about them, and since there will be no more of them, I will suddenly run out of things to watch, think about, or write about here. The show is Dear Ladies, starring those two doyennes of the opera and musical theatre, Dame Hilda Bracket and Doctor Evadne Hinge.
Sadly Dame Hilda has now died - some years ago, now, in 2002 - so there really cannot be any more of these shows. Her operatic career began with her education under the great figure Signor Bonavoce in the years leading up to the Second World War. Her autobiography tells the fascinating tale of how she was rushed out of Italy at just about the last moment before the border closed. She spent the war years entertaining the troops, and was awarding the Dame Commander of the British Empire for services rendered. After the war she joined the Rosa Charles Opera company, wvhich was where she met Evadne Hinge, who was the company's musical director, and they became life-long companions. Years later in semi-retirement, they made this series of programmes about their life in the Suffolk village of Stackton Tressel. They also had radio programmes and appeared extensively on stage, in their own act and in other plays. I particularly like Dame Hilda in a radio adaptation of Graham Greene's Travels with my Aunt. She also managed to enter the world of Our Sort of Television, by appearing (under the stage name of Perri St Clair, in the first film of Steptoe and Son (which I have written about elsewhere here) and also in an episode of Doctor in the House called Pass or Fail. My point is that the ladies may be familiar to readers from appearances elsewhere, even though I feel their radio and TV shows may never have crossed the Atlantic.
This post also marks a rare occasion in the life of this blog, namely that I am going to write about an episode of the show which I remember being broadcast the first time round, in 1983. In fact these great figures of the stage and screen formed part of the furniture of my childhood. The episode in question is Mystery Weekend, in which they go on excactly that.
The episode begins at home and we see the ladies in the attic of their house reminiscing in part about their days in the Rosa Charles, and some of the people they knew. I love that - and thought it was so sophisticated. As indeed it is.
The atmospheric viewing continues with a train journey. As with every setting which the ladies visit, it is immediately apparent that they are quality, and lift everything around them. The only sad thing about this part of the show is that even though they are on the already-decimated railways of the 1980s, the restaurant car in which they eat lunch is still far more luxurious than anything you would find on our trains now! Happy memories of what in retrospect was a more luxurious time. I love that the soup of the day is called Friday.
The mystery weekend is a mystery in two senses - they don't know where the train is going and once they get there, there is a mystery to be investigated. To the ladies' surprise when they get to their hotel they find it is being run by two of their former colleagues in the Rosa Charles opera - who haven't changed a bit! The reminiscences continue but do not detract from the mystery. That is one of the clever things about Dear Ladies, that each episode has a plot in itself and is not simply about the lives of the ladies. Dame Hilda finds that her former understudy (who never went on) in the Rosa Charles has to be reminded who she is, and they've mistaken her husband for the porter. Whether at home or on holiday in this show, the ladies keep the laughs coming.
Ultimately the show also highlights the difference in the ladies' personalities - Dr Hinge follows the clues around the hotel, while Dame Hilda devotes a decanter of port to getting the murder victim drunk so that she discloses whodunnit. And the ladies are the point of this show - it is spending half an hour with two great characters whose company is pure pleasure. Dane Hilda in particular settles into her Miss Marple role very well.
If you haven't discovered the dear ladies yet, some of their TV shows are on youtube, and also on Acorn DVD. Their radio shows are intermittently available on archive.org.

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Mike - thank you for commenting. I published it but have removed it again because of...well, you know! ;o)
      I will immediately rush out and buy the series you mention!

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  2. They were wonderful.I recorfed "One Little Maid"-Dame Hilda' "autobiography " and "The Missing monologues" as a tribute to the genius that was Hinge and Bracket. I had the honour to work with them twice and their timing was perfection. (The recordings of the monologues and "One Little Maid" are on you tube at my channel -David Rumelle.xx

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    1. David thank you very much for commenting. I must say how much I have appreciated your reading of One Little Maid.

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