Once a format is developed it seems that it starts an avalanche of similar programmes. This is by no means the first travelogue in a motorhome or campavan and it undoubtedly won’t be the last Whether you enjoy this format or not depends on whether or not you like the occupants and their banter. So confession time, I have a soft spot for the oft outrageous Miriam Margolyes.
In last night’s Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland (C4 9.15pm) the delightfully straight talking actress was accompanied by the mildly eccentric actor Alan Cummings as they took a nostalgic Motorhome trip around Scotland – her father’s land of birth and Cummings homeland.
Octogenarian Margolyes’ father was a Scot born in Glasgow, although she was born in Oxford, and Cummings, now living in Manhattan, was born in Perthshire. Margolyes now suffering from mobility problems is, as she has described herself, “fat” causing difficulty getting in and out of the motorhome without Cummings assistance, which he unselfishly gave.
The idea was that they would share the driving but Margolyes can only drive automatics and guess what, the production company hired a manual. Cumming drove to their first port of call, a somewhat pointless visit to Glasgow to see the area where her father Joseph Margolyes lived.
At a mid point they met up with actor Bill Paterson in the village of Fordyce where he and Miriam had filmed a TV production in 1980. Back then the pair bought a house in the village however, going by the fact that they did not visit the dwelling we can assume that they no longer own the property. The village was nostalgic for them and tiring for Cumming, who wheeled his travelling companion around in a wheelchair, but was frankly uninspiring for viewers, despite the pair’s best efforts. In archive extracts of the programme they made we did get to see a slimmer, 41 years younger Miriam.
A question running through this first episode is whether Cumming is related to the first baron of Cawdor, to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance as we see from an oil painting. He and Liza Campbell, daughter of the 6th earl had, some weeks before, taken a DNA test to see if the relationship is real. Viewers who watched Cummings Who Do You Think You Are? episode will not be surprised to find out why this possibility didn’t figure in that programme.
In his autobiography Not My Father’s Son, Cumming recounts the emotional and physical trauma his father inflicted on him in his childhood so a visit to the old family home was always on the cards. “He was particularly cruel to me and my brother,” Cumming tells Margolyes outside the dank outhouse in which his father once forcibly sheared young Cumming’s hair. The travelling companions sat in the garden as Cumming recalled memories that he would rather forget. Although they had the current owner’s permission to go into the house, he decided, in true theatrical style, that it would be too emotional – that must have pleased the owners who had no doubt expended time and energy getting the place camera ready.
Cummings concludes, “It would be a lovely place to live if you didn’t have massive childhood trauma in it.”
This is not the most inspiring travelogue you will ever see but the chemistry between Margolyes and Cumming makes it a pleasant enough hour’s viewing. Whether or not it can sustain a further two hours remains to be seen.