Tuesday 9 January 2018

The Navy Lark on The Reunion

Here's a lovely little treat from the Radio 4 archives. The Reunion sees Sue MacGregor presents the series which reunites a group of people intimately involved in a moment of modern history. Back in 2008, Sue brought together some of the original team behind The Navy Lark, one of the most popular and longest-running radio sitcoms. Participants include June Whitfield, Leslie Phillips, George Evans, Heather Chesen and Tenniel Evans.

The Navy Lark was a radio comedy series about life aboard a British Royal Navy frigate named HMS Troutbridge. The programme was transmitted on the BBC Light Programme and subsequently BBC Radio 2. It was produced by Alastair Scott Johnston. Jon Pertwee is frequently quoted as having suggested the idea of a forces comedy based on the Royal Navy, but writer Laurie Wyman and Alastair Scott Johnston both contemplated an Air Force and an Army themed sit-com before going to the BBC with 'The Navy Lark'. 

Laurie Wyman included ideas based on excuses for late return from leave and other misdemeanours from HMS Troutbridge bulletins. He worked with George Evans (Pertwee's personal scriptwriter) from quite early on, but Alastair Scott Johnston did not want him named until the 12th series onwards. For most of its run, it starred Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee and Stephen Murray, whose names rotated in order of precedence every episode over the entire 15 season run.

Episodes were self-contained, although there was continuity within the series, and sometimes a reference to a previous episode might be made. A normal episode consisted of Sub Lt Phillips, scheming Chief Petty Officer Pertwee, and bemused Lt. Murray trying to get out of trouble they created for themselves without their direct superior, Commander (later Captain) "Thunderguts" Povey finding out. Scenes frequently featured a string of eccentric characters, often played by Ronnie Barker or Jon Pertwee.

It's a lovely listen and it was great to hear June and Leslie reunited so many years after they first worked together in Carry On Nurse. Indeed, Leslie recalls hearing about The Navy Lark while they were working together as boyfriend and girlfriend on that very film.

You can listen to the programme here: The Reunion: The Navy Lark

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