David Attenborough’s Life Story Prom: “If ever there was a good reason to keep the BBC alive, this was it”

A macabre and comedic array of animal tales were told through music and film at the Royal Albert Hall this weekend

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The moment David Attenborough walked on stage and received a storming standing ovation from the several thousand people in the audience, it was obvious this was going to be no ordinary music concert.

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When the clapping finally stopped — he was starting to look slightly embarrassed at the adulation — Attenborough began introducing the segments of film from Life Story, the six-part BBC1 series, which the BBC Concert Orchestra would be accompanying.

Written by Murray Gold, who has composed all the music for Doctor Who since its 2005 revival, the score was brilliantly varied and seamlessly interwoven with each animal story.

From comic calypsos accompanying hermit crabs house-hunting, to a deeply moving soundtrack to a herd of elephants discovering the skeletal remains of a family member, the animal tales had the children and adults in front of me laughing and weeping by turns.

Other stars of the prom included a grouse who shows off his dance moves to attract a mate, a fish who creates incredibly intricate sand sculptures to, again, attract a mate (“The efforts they go to put human men to shame,” said the friend who came with me), and the male albatross who waits patiently for his mate of twenty years to return to him. 

In each story, the animals were anthropomorphised to seem more like actors in a romantic drama or a slapstick comedy. We’ll just have to hope that the natural world isn’t offended at being likened to us.

While the music was beautiful, it may have been less interesting to a BBC Radio 3 audience at home, without the big screens and naturalist royalty to bring it to life. Seeing Attenborough sitting in his comfy-looking armchair on stage, watching the footage along with us, made the score all the more thrilling. A single slip up — introducing the wrong segment — was met with glee.  “I’ve made a mistake,” he said jovially, and duly received another standing ovation at the end.

If ever there was a good reason to keep the BBC alive, this was it.


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David Attenborough will be at the Radio Times Festival, taking us from the poles to the tropics as part of a sweeping tour of his six decades in broadcasting. The only man to have won Baftas for programmes made in black and white, colour, HD and 3D, Sir David will also become the inaugural member of the Radio Times Hall of Fame. Buy tickets here.

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