Which famous actors are in Suffolk writer’s new comedy series?

The team at the recording: Producer Claire Jones, Roger Allam, Joanna Lumley, and writer Jan Etherin

The team at the recording: Producer Claire Jones, Roger Allam, Joanna Lumley, and writer Jan Etherington, from Suffolk Picture: Jan Etherington - Credit: Archant

Jan Etherington’s series shows people in late middle-age aren’t ready to be pensioned off yet!

It's a red-letter day on Wednesday for Suffolk writer Jan Etherington. Her comedy series begins on BBC Radio 4 - starring Joanna Lumley, and Roger Allam (from TV's Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour).

A pilot of Conversations From A Long Marriage aired on New Year's Day, 2018, and proved a success. Now we have four 30-minute episodes to enjoy.

Joanna and Roger play a couple who met during the Summer of Love and have stayed together for decades. There's some frustration and fear about ageing, but they feel as they did at 18 and believe there's a lot of life still to live, all being well.

Their conversations are often like gentle verbal jousting. In the opening episode, the pair return from a party with old friends. A burning question hangs in the air: why didn't you ask me to dance?

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Jan was inspired to write Conversations From A Long Marriage after being appalled at the way her age group was often depicted: from pensioners behaving badly or stupidly in "reality" programmes to bickering fools in so-called comedy shows.

"It's not that we want to stay 'young'. But our hearts remain youthfully optimistic and we simply want to look in the mirror and see a face that reflects what we feel inside," she says.

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Jan has written more than a dozen TV and radio series with Gavin Petrie, her husband of 35 years or so. They include Next of Kin (starring Penelope Keith), The Change, Duck Patrol (Richard Wilson and David Tennant), and Faith in the Future. Jan has also written for Ayres on the Air (Pam Ayres).

Conversations From A Long Marriage is her first solo narrative comedy series - one created and written in Walberswick.

We never actually learn the couple's names. Why? "That is deliberate. I am tired of hearing characters endlessly addressed by name, in radio comedy and drama. I also wanted the listeners to be able to identify with these two; and boy, have they done that!"

- Conversations From A Long Marriage launches on BBC Radio 4 at 11.30am on Wednesday, January 22.

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