15 JUNE 1962, Page 18


Whitsun Recess


Ir you happened to be reading rWar and Peace, you might well The BBC is more maternal than a book pub- lisher, and it's absolutely hipped on holidays. It likes lots of nice predigested holiday stuff that will soothe without over-stimulating the average idiot who has just spent five hours of baking sunshine in a traffic queue to the coast. Maybe it's right, but I have always hated these special holidays schedules with a petulant hatred. Have I become a Pavlovian schedule-addict? I cer- tainly wasn't going to be tempted by Worm's Eye View on Sunday followed by Sailor Beware on Monday, any more than I would be tempted to join a five-mile traffic queue.

We lost Tonight, Panorama and Table Talk. There were bright moments, however. Jimmy Edwards's musical extravaganza on Saturday night didn't get off the ground as fast or as far as everybody hoped, but it was pleasant and jolly. There was also lonesco's puzzle piece, The Chairs, on Friday, a virtuoso duet for Beatrix Lehmann and Cyril Cusack. This kind of thing is always worth doing because it's the only chance provincial viewers have of seeing for themselves what all the fuss was about. Produc- tion was neatly controlled, performances were full of guile which almost convinced me that the play itself was something more than a load of old rubbish. On maturer consideration, I suspect that the illusion would have worked better in a live theatre; that lonesco did have an interesting little idea which would have looked well scribbled on the back of a postcard; that as a play it was nevertheless a load of old rubbish; and that it was still good to have a chance of seeing it. ABC's Armchair Theatre effort, The Irish Boys, was absolutely comprehensible as a contrast. A small thing about an honest ambiti- ous Irishman and a layabout begob-and- begorrah Irishman and a calculating little Lon- don secretary who drank gin with her little finger crooked. Funny, sad and charming.

Quite the most frightening sight on the screen was Tuesday night's discussion between Huw Wheldon and Sol Cornberg (BBC) who has devised methods in America for teaching students by television—allowing the educator, in Mr. Cornberg's words, to multiply himself. Mr. Corn- berg, looking like just about the blandest import since processed cheese, suggested that books and even teachers were inefficient as a means of pass- ing information, and assured us that a machine- taught student could even ask the machine ques- tions, and have his watch corrected by the machine. 'Information' was Mr. Cornberg's religion and it was bewildering to see how, when Wheldon tried to suggest that information was perhaps not enough, Cornberg's own built-in query analyser simply didn't register the point, and kept on producing further bits of processed information in a Madison Avenue Newspeak which presumably will be the language of the teaching machines.