FEATURE: Why You Should All Be Listening to Cabin Pressure

Here at Assorted Buffery, we're fairly big fans of certain rising star Benedict Cumberbatch, just in case you hadn't noticed. I've thought he was one to watch as far back as his starring role as Stephen Hawking and in the excellent but criminally under-seen Stuart: A Life Backwards (also starring Tom Hardy - do look it up if you get chance, both actors are truly brilliant). One thing that I've always done when I've liked an actor is to seek out other works of theirs and on one such hunt, I discovered Cabin Pressure.

In case you haven't come across it, Cabin Pressure is a BBC Radio 4 sitcom, written by John Finnemore, about an extremely small airline, MJN Air, which consists of one plane, two pilots, an airline manager/stewardess and a rather enthusiastic, though ultimately useless, steward. Captain Martin Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch), First Officer Douglas Richardson (Roger Allam), Caroline Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole) and her son Arthur (also John Finnemore) take on a wide variety of jobs across the world, but inevitably, things go awry and flights never go quite according to plan.

So why should you track down this particular radio gem? Well quite simply, it's one of the funniest things on radio (or television actually) right now, full of acerbic one-liners, devestating put-downs and intricately weaved plots leading to hilarious punchlines. Finnemore's scripts work in great partnership with the actors, generously granting each one their moment in the spotlight. What also helps is that the characters are well-rounded, adding pathos to their funniest moments. For example, the captain, Martin, is your classic under-achiever and much of his comedy is mined from this fact, but also a fair amount of character development too. He isn't just a stereotype, he's a person down on his luck who just happens to get into hilarious situations.

The performances are also routinely excellent; Roger Allam steals the show with his dry delivery, often getting the best one-liners and his battles with Stephanie Cole's Caroline are always a highlight. Finnemore's Arthur is a character that in the hands of a lesser performer could be extremely irritating, but instead thankfully remains endearing. The cast also have a great chemistry and I can imagine that attending the live recordings are an absolute riot. Should we be fortunate enough to get a fifth series, I'll most definitely be in line for tickets.

The fourth series of Cabin Pressure has just started, with the first episode airing earlier this evening and absence has not harmed the show one bit. There were fears that Benedict Cumberbatch might not return now that Hollywood has come knocking rather violently at his door (quite right too), but he's back in the Captain's hat as Martin. This episode covers a Birling Day, a big event in the Cabin Pressure world in which multi-millionaire Mr Birling pays them an absolute fortune to fly him to the rugby, usually the Six Nations, but here it's the World Cup. However, instead of going to Twickenham, they end up travelling to Timbuktu. Or should that be Timbuktu Timbuktu? 

You can now listen to the episode in full over on iPlayer here. Trust me, it's worth it!

- Becky

Follow Becky on Twitter @beckygracelea. She can also be found tweeting with Jen on the @AssortedBuffery account.

Or follow her blog beckygracelea.wordpress.com

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