The radio adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is an exceptionally entertaining and accurate adaptation of the novels, probably because McCall Smith himself dramatised the series for Radio 4, so they retain the rhythm and personality of the books better than some other film and TV adaptations.
The series follows a detective agency, founded by a Motswana woman, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the protagonist and main detective. The adventures and eccentricities of the characters, like Mr JLB Matekoni chasing self-improvement, are as important as the solving of mysteries. Especially entertaining is Mma Keitumetse’s vigorous berating of the ‘old fashioned men’ who never hoover, or buy their wives presents, in the story ‘The Modern Husband Course’.
The lighthearted tone, especially the cheeky tea slurps in the awkward pauses, and the setting in an agency in Gaborone, in central Botswana, make it pretty easy listening, but it still explores more interesting themes; women in traditional or nontraditional occupations, rural life in southern Africa, and social life in African society. The actors and voices are incredibly well chosen, maintaining the stories’ simple yet powerful messages and making it certainly worthy escapism on rainy Edinburgh afternoons.
Image: Antonis Kyrou