If you haven’t heard of Jack Monroe, where have you been?!
They shot to fame following starting a blog when they found themselves living in poverty with their son (referred to then, and now in their monthly Diva Magazine column, as ‘Small Boy’). The blog became sucessful and the recipes were published into a book by Penguin. Jack’s life was turned upside down and they continued to be involved in activism in relation to poverty and later transgender rights.
I was unsure why Radio 4 chose now to dramatise Jack’s story. ‘A Girl Called Jack‘ (the title of Jack’s first recipe book published in 2014, though they now identify as non-binary) but they did in the form of 5 part radio drama written by Sarah Daniels and starring Jaime Winstone and June Whitfield. The 15 minute bitesized segments were a great length and I found myself catching up on an evening before bed.
We’re told the story through Jack (including some extracts from the original blog, which you can still read online) and their grandmother and get to experience a journey of hunger, struggle and Jack’s initially disapproving grandmother. The story is shocking in parts, as are most based on true event stories, I find.
Something was missing for me. I usually enjoy Jaime Winstone’s acting but I found her and the grandmother (Whitfield) a little irritating. The outcome (episode 5) also seemed rushed, perhaps this could have stretched over a copule of weeks for a better effect. I’d also have liked to hear the real Jack Monroe within the drama, reading the actual extracts would have been effective.
That said, I remembered to listen each evening as is often not the case with multi-part drama, in particular those on the radio (which is why I dip in and out of The Archers). And the story itself is inspirational, you can’t argue with that if you’ve been at all familiar with Jack over the last few years as they win more awards and live a life a far cry from that desperate time (Jack describes themself then as “unemployed, broke and broken“) when beginning their blog in 2012 with many appearances in the media and even as the face of Sainsburys.
It’s worth a listen and will be available on BBC Iplayer until 28 May 2016.
Have you listened? What did you think?