11 NOVEMBER 1949, Page 14

The Microphone in 1666

When Mr. Val Gielgud this summer produced his play on the death of Caesar as it would have been recorded on radio by a con- temporary Roman Broadcasting System, the idea was clearly too good to be confined to one production only. The News From Yester- day series has now begun extremely well, and is as enlivening as anything in the week. Mr. W. P. Rilla is a young producer who is intelligent enough, on occasion, to make mistakes ; but he made no mistake of any kind when he sent out his team of radio reporters to deal with the Great Fire of London.

Once you make the act of faith which enables you to swallow the idea of a microphone in 1666, you find the authenticity of these programmes alluring. One of the incidental troubles may be that the reporters, Messrs. Vaughan Thomas and Richard Dimbleby and the rest, put so animated an actuality into their descriptions of the past that I shall grow to distrust their veracity when, in other programmes, they are describing the present. The Gunpowder Plot last week did not do quite as well as the first of the series. It shirked —perhaps understandably—the dreadful drama of the torture chamber and the frightening words Per Gradus ad Ina. But, though the idea of News From Yesterday has been used before both in British and American broadcasting, I doubt whether it could be better handled than it is handled now.