And here’s to you, Ms Tracy-Ann Oberman/Jesus loves you more than you will know/wo, wo, wo. Of all Oberman’s behind-the-scenes radio plays which disinter and dissect the wrangles, egos and performances of legendary actors, this is my favourite.
Partly it’s the beguiling subject: the tortuous gestation, rule-breaking casting and inspired acting, direction and cinematography of The Graduate. Partly it’s that she explains why this film had such a grip on its generation of film-goers who, like director Mike Nichols and producer Larry Turman, identified with the lost, questing eponymous character first introduced in Charles Webb’s novel. And partly it’s because this play is such name-dropping good fun.
Oberman, playing Anne Bancroft playing Mrs R with a cool, husky tone, makes the point that there would have been no movie without this seminal performance. It might have been interesting to have made the 1960s cougar more the focus, although Oberman may have wished to step away from Terry Johnson’s stage adaptation of The Graduate from 2000, which has run and run, giving an assortment of Mrs Robinsons their chance to vie for on-stage seductiveness and acting laurels.
John Simm gives Nichols humility and vulnerability – notably when recounting his origins as a Jewish refugee from Nazism – but it is Kevin Bishop as Dustin Hoffman who is sensational, summoning up ‘the sad eyes and awkward body’ with which he became Benjamin Braddock, a young man turning a sex life into an existential crisis.