Friday, 26 April 2013

Radio Minus 50: Friday 26 April 1963

The Navy Lark: Whittlesea Regatta

The more I hear of The Navy Lark, the stranger it seems that the format was (briefly) changed because it was considered to be repetitive.  That's not to say it isn't repetitive: in fact it's probably the most repetitive comedy programme I've ever experienced (sorry to repeat the word repetitive so often).  But that seems to be the whole point of it: the mayhem-laden middle third of each episode, with the crew of HMS Troutbridge getting into a series of scrapes, could be transposed to any other episode, with very little difference being made.  On either side, there's the set-up for that week's adventure (this week, Troutbridge is due to tow the Admiral's barge to Whittlesea bay for the Northern seaside town's regatta), and the eventual conclusion, usually involving an angry Captain Povey blowing off steam at the .  It's like a cartoon, or a Beano strip - the audience know exactly what they're going to get, and that's the way they like it.

Most of the fun's to be had from each episode's incidental details: Whittlesea Regatta's stolen by its guest characters:  Tenniel Evans as the stone-deaf admiral, Ronnie Barker as Whittlesea's gloomy mayor and Janet Brown as his domineering wife.  And then there's the very peculiar innuendo: when First Officer Murray suggests Sub-Lt Phillips does his "left hand down a bit" automatically, a shocked Pertwee replies "Does he?" to much audience merriment.  I've no idea what it means.

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