May 19, 2024

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Now 82, Melly has lived a bohemian life, one not short of problems – she has struggled with alcoholism – and grief: Video, Photos

There is nothing new about polyamory, whatever eager millennials might tell you. Anyone listening to last Sunday’s Private Passions on Radio 3 would have heard Diana Melly talk about her open marriage in the 1960s and 1970s with the late musician and bon viveur, George Melly.

I think it’s fair to say that the enjoyment of their particular set-up was not necessarily shared equally. “As so often happens,” presenter Michael Berkeley, dancing nimbly through the thickets of sexual propriety, suggested, “one person dealt with this more happily than the other.”

It’s perhaps not a conversation you’d expect on Radio 3 between arias from Puccini, Mozart and Verdi. But the programme is called Private Passions, I suppose, and everyone was really very grown up about it all.

“Is that a recipe you would advise people to follow – open marriages – or do you think on the whole it is better to hope you find somebody you are in love with and they’re in love with you?” Berkeley asked.

“I think that’s obviously better,” Melly said, “but because we all live so much longer now … If you get married at let’s say 24 and you live to 94 … that’s a very long time. I do know some people who have stayed married like that. Not many.”

Now 82, Melly has lived a bohemian life, one not short of problems – she has struggled with alcoholism – and grief. She has tragically lost two children, one to cancer and one to a heroin overdose, and at the end of her husband’s life she had to nurse him through dementia and lung cancer. But she beats on, falling in love with opera in recent years and taking up ballroom dancing. That’s when she’s not reading the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus.

“He’s very, very good on friendship,” she suggested. “And what he says about sex and love I think is quite interesting. He says the best you can hope for is that it won’t do you any harm.”

George Melly - Wikipedia

Talking of the classics, over on Radio 4 on Thursday, actor Jade Anouka was using the documentary Playing the Prince to make a pitch for playing the role of Hamlet. “I don’t know if there have been any queer, black, female Hamlets and, if there have, not from south-east London and not with my history,” she admitted.

Anouka spoke to actors who had played Shakespeare’s tragic hero – Samuel West, Adrian Lester and Derek Jacobi – in this often fascinating exploration of one of the great theatrical roles. Lester pointed out that if Hamlet was replaced by Othello the play would be a lot shorter.

“If you’d gone to Othello and said, ‘I am your father’s ghost and I was killed by your uncle,’ the uncle would be dead within 10 minutes. End of play.”

Jacobi recalled once performing Hamlet at the Old Vic with Winston Churchill sitting in the front row. “As I started he started saying it with me, which was a bit throwing.” Did the veteran actor have any advice for others who might be playing the Dane? “You’ve got to make sure your tights fit.”

Revelations on 5 Live Sport last Saturday. Describing their time with the Scotland football squad, former Scotland players Alan Hutton and James McFadden told us that going away with the international squad was always all about conspicuous consumption. Three courses for lunch and dinner. “It was a disgrace,” Hutton admitted.

“I think we may have just discovered why Scotland may have struggled on the men’s side of things in the international era for a little while,” presenter Mark Chapman suggested, before asking who was the biggest eater. “Kris Boyd,” Hutton and McFadden announced. Clipes.

Sherlock Holmes’s best-known novel is given a musical adaptation by composer Neil Brand, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Mark Gatiss plays Holmes and Sanjeev Bhaskar is Dr Watson.

BBC Two - George Melly's Last Stand

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