Ink Festival, Halesworth: The mother of all comedy
PUBLISHED: 16:38 05 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 05 April 2017
Sarah Lucy Brown
Jan Etherington previews Halesworth’s Ink Festival, when actors Astrid Ronning and Bernard Hill will showcase Her Mother’s Voice, a celebration of American radio and television comedy legend Peg Lynch
The Ink Festival, April 22-23, at The Cut in Halesworth, features over 30 plays for radio, stage and screen, by East Anglian writers – but the highlight is an event which will delight fans of comedy history, and reveals a unique link between Suffolk and one of the founders of American sitcom.
In Her Mother’s Voice, Astrid Ronning, who lives in Walberswick, presents the timeless humour of her mother, Peg Lynch, the first woman to create, write, produce, own, and star in both her own radio and television comedy series. Her creation, Ethel and Albert, the everyday life of an average middle class couple living in small town America, became one of that country’s most popular husband and wife comedies from the day it was first heard in 1938 and ran, either on radio or TV, for over 60 years.
Peg Lynch has been described as ‘the woman who created sitcom’ and a ‘comedy genius’. At the Ink Festival, Astrid will play Ethel, the role created and performed by her mother, with leading film, stage and television actor, Bernard Hill, playing her ‘husband’, Albert.
We mostly know Bernard Hill for strong dramatic roles, in Wolf Hall and Lord of The Rings, and perhaps, most memorably, as Yosser ‘Gissa a job’, in Boys from the Blackstuff, but he reveals why he’s delighted to be playing comedy again.
“I’ve got comedy bones. Growing up, you either became the best fighter, or made people laugh. I told really good jokes! Discovering Peg Lynch’s script was like opening Pandora’s box. They have wonderful structure and reflect what American life was really like back then.” But how does a daughter fill her mother’s shoes?
“Very carefully,” says Astrid, laughing. Before performing two short episodes of Ethel & Albert with Bernard, Astrid will play recordings of her mother talking about her work, and show a vintage 1950 kinescope of Peg in action.
Naturally, Astrid is extremely proud of her mother’s life and career. During her lifetime, Peg wrote over 11,000 radio and television scripts, alone and unaided. Her last live performance was at the age of 96, at a radio convention in Ohio. And she recorded a Comic Relief Red Nose message before she died, in July 2015, 18 months before her 100th birthday.