Critique of Radio 4 history show's use of actors

A few weeks ago, I blogged about BBC Radio 4's "America, Empire of Liberty" series on American history. I noted that I enjoyed the use of actors to read excerpts from historical passages. It's a technique I stole a few years ago for a documentary I did on Virginia's literary history. But, the Independent's radio critic isn't a big fan:

Every time we get to an excerpt from a letter or a speech, up pops some actor or other putting on the appropriate voice: Edmund Burke is Oirish, George III gets a terrible stutter, southern gentlemen sound like the supporting cast in 'Gone with the Wind'. I understand the impulses to break the monotony and identify the characters, but against the background of Reynolds' downbeat narration it just sounds hammy. At times, it gets as annoying as a Woman's Hour serial: and that is not an insult I fling about lightly.
I disagree with Robert Hanks, because I think it makes the pieces a bit more entertaining to listen to. But, isn't it great that there's radio criticism in a newspaper? I wish I had that here, as well. The aforementioned documentary I mentioned stunk, and was absolutely awful. Yet, it aired without any comment at all. I would have loved to have been raked over the coals. I certainly deserved to.


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