"There's no much opportunity for self-advancement in toilets," says Jim Bloggs, as he takes a break from swabbing the public conveniences clean. If only he'd got some 'levels' at school. Who knows? He could have become a Bachelor of Arts, but then he's married, to Hilda, so it's probably too late for that as well.
Originally published as a graphic novel in 1980, Raymond Briggs has brought his work up to date (in terms of GCSEs and the cost of living) and turned it into a magical piece of radio drama.
Jim and his wife are a poor working-class couple who long for a better, albeit a fantasy, lifestyle, where she can dress as a bar floozie in fishnet tights and he can be a swaggering cowboy.
Briggs shows the stifling effect that a lack of education and wealth has upon their dreams without needing to hit the listener round the head with a copy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's Communist Manifesto.
At every plot juncture in the play Jim's childlike naivety is crushed closer to despair by his encounter with faceless, uninterested and even cruel bureaucracy. The final run-in with authority has him sentences to an indefinite stay in prison for the various crimes that he's been charged with, including wearing obscene and indecent apparel in a public place and fouling the pedestrian footways - he took an elderly donkey out, while dressed as a highway man in second-hand rubber waders and his mother-in-law's frilly shirt.
This is utterly faithful to Briggs's original story, with some striking sound effects when Jim and Hilda indulge in their fantasies. It's warm, it's funny, but it also hurts.Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 1st May 2010