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Award-winning Suffolk writer’s radio comedy starring Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam challenges stereotypes of ‘babyboomer’ couples

PUBLISHED: 12:01 03 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:36 03 January 2018

Jan Etherington, pictured with Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam. Picture: MATT STRONGE

Jan Etherington, pictured with Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam. Picture: MATT STRONGE

Matt Stronge

A Suffolk writer, whose radio comedy about marriage starring Joanna Lumley received rave reviews, is now hoping to develop it into a series.

At the recording of the radio comedy, Suffolk writer Jan Etherington (seated), is pictured with Joanna Lumley, Roger Allam, Claire Jones (producer) and Nick Coupe (production assistant). Picture: JAN ETHERINGTONAt the recording of the radio comedy, Suffolk writer Jan Etherington (seated), is pictured with Joanna Lumley, Roger Allam, Claire Jones (producer) and Nick Coupe (production assistant). Picture: JAN ETHERINGTON

Jan Etherington, who lives in Walberswick, said her play Conversations From a Long Marriage was intended to challenge stereotypical “babyboomer” portrayals of ageing couples.

It features Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam playing a couple who have been married for more than 40 years. Unlike the traditional portrayal of older couples, their characters, as children of the ‘60s are “free spirits, drawn together by their passion for music - and each other”.

In conversations held from the local cafe to their kitchen table, the couple cover such age related topics as her resentment of her new tri-focal glasses and fury at being lectured at by the dental hygienist, while he has a “dodgy knee” and is on statins.

However there are also discussions about going clubbing in Ibiza and how, inside, Lumley’s character is still “Dancing in the Street, with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas”

Joanna Lumley, pictured at the Aldeburgh Documentary Festival, stars in the comedy. Picture: NICK TIPPING PHOTOGRAPHYJoanna Lumley, pictured at the Aldeburgh Documentary Festival, stars in the comedy. Picture: NICK TIPPING PHOTOGRAPHY

The 30 minute show broadcast on BBC Radio Four on New Year’s Day – and has been met with rave reviews. Ms Etherington, who is also a volunteer tour guide at Southwold Lighthouse, said she received dozens of comments and texts after the show. One said: “It was brilliant. They sounded like a real married couple. She was just like me.” In a Mumsnet discussion, another fan added: “Anyone else listening?. Very funny, bit too realistic?!”

Ms Etherington, a multi- award-winning comedy writer and journalist, has been married for 33 years to Gavin Petrie, with whom she has written radio and TV series including Second Thoughts, Faith in the Future and Next of Kin. She said: “I wrote the comedy because I was tired of the stereotypical ‘babyboomer’ portrayals, of those who have ‘become old’ none of which reflected the ‘still the same’ attitude in me – and my contemporaries.”

Following the positive reaction to Conversations From a Long Marriage, her first solo-scripted half hour comedy, Ms Etherington is “very much hoping that it will be a series”. She is encouraging listeners who like the comedy to tell the BBC by emailing Pick of The Week.

People can listen on iPlayer until the end of January.

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