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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The difference between "War and Peace" on the telly and "The Archers" on the radio

 War and Peace debuted on BBC TV the other night in a standard Andrew Davies adaptation. All the characters had to be introduced right at the beginning. All the bases had to be covered. All the budget had to be on the screen. There was even the standard tacked-on, not in the book sex scene that looked like it had wandered in from a pre-Christmas ad for a men's fragrance. The one actor who remained still enough to register his character was Stephen Rea (above) as the sinister, manipulative Kuragin. 

Meanwhile, in the land of radio soaps, Timothy Watson (left) just shifted up a gear as the sinister, manipulative Rob Titchener in The Archers.

They're obviously both good actors, doing different jobs in different productions.

What's interesting is the differing reactions. The performance of the TV actor is met with detached admiration. The performance of the radio actor, on the other hand, is met with demands that the BBC move him and his plotline out of the series because, frankly, it's just too damned disturbing.

TV always provides you with an escape clause. Radio gets inside your head.

12 comments:

  1. My problem with Rob is the relentless one note-ness of it all. Occasionally I catch the show wondering "is Rob still completely evil and one dimensional" and he is. And its is been going on for so long. I was hoping he would finally give his moustache a last twirl at Christmas and die or something. But no. On and on it goes. Annoying and boring.

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  2. That's the first time I've seen a picture of 'Rob' and my imagination now feels violated!

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  3. “There was even the standard tacked-on, not in the book sex scene that looked like it had wandered in from a pre-Christmas ad for a men's fragrance”.

    Indeed. To call it gratuitous is more than an understatement. At his best, Davis does decent work as an adaptor/dramatiser, but he will insist on sex-scenes and his favourite unsubtle trademark, women touching each other, suggesting some sort of crap that only he can (and wants to) see.

    He’s quoted in “Radio Times” in a two-page piece of self-congratulatory waffle as loving the opportunities he gets to write scenes that aren’t in the books. Readers/viewers are too thick to spot this or that subtlety so dear old Andrew has to get out the big brush.

    If Tolstoy thought that people need bigger signposts, he’d have bigged them up. That said, he might have kept it subtle to avoid the censors. Who knows? Andrew Davies most likely. And, apart from Davies, and his imagination, who knows what the subtleties the original Russian language version offers.

    Things have to be tweaked to get them into the time and budget available, but invented scenes just to suit the adaptor’s ego is teeth-grindingly painful.

    Stephen Rea is on form as Inspector Bucket in the solidly faithful adaptation of “Dickensian”.

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  4. Along with “Dan Dare, Pilot Of The Future,” and “Journey Into Space,” one of the first drama-type things I recall hearing on radio was an adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw”. I was about three weeks old, or thereabouts.
    It never gave me nightmares or even bad dreams, but to this day I can still hear the “thing” banging on the door – front door I always assumed – and the mother screaming to husband not to open the door, but instead use the paw to wish the thing away. That happens, then the door is opened and there’s the sound of night wind that I can still see.
    Similar thing, though slightly less scary, with Kenneth Williams and Tony Hancock in the “Test Pilot”.
    “What’s this button for…..?”

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  5. Along with “Dan Dare, Pilot Of The Future,” and “Journey Into Space,” one of the first drama-type things I recall hearing on radio was an adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw”. I was about three weeks old, or thereabouts.
    It never gave me nightmares or even bad dreams, but to this day I can still hear the “thing” banging on the door – front door I always assumed – and the mother screaming to husband not to open the door, but instead use the paw to wish the thing away. That happens, then the door is opened and there’s the sound of night wind that I can still see.
    Similar thing, though slightly less scary, with Kenneth Williams and Tony Hancock in the “Test Pilot”.
    “What’s this button for…..?”

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  6. What on earth is this "Dickensian" that has beenfaithfully adapted?

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  7. I love listening to the radio for the same reason that I love to read books - you may be given the storyline and the characters, but the scenery and how the characters look is left much to your own imagination, (which I often find to be preferable to someone else's...)

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  8. “Dickensian” is a 20 part serial* on BBC1 in which any number of Dickens characters appear; Scrooge, Fagin, Bill Sikes, Nancy, Bumble, Venus, Bob Cratchit and family, Miss Havisham, Little Nell (not at all deceased) and more. It’s a bit soapish, but we’re enjoying it. The acting is universally fine.


    Inspector Bucket (Stephen Rea) is investigating the murder of Jacob Marley.

    My comment about the faithful adaptation was just a bit of whimsy. It’s anything but faithful, but not meant to be, although the characters are, so to speak, faithfully “in character”.

    *“Serial,” now that is a word from early radio days and Saturday mornings at the pictures/flicks.

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  9. The Rob and Helen pot boiler is surely approaching the denouement; another harrowing notch in Helen's bedpost. You feel her life would marginally improve if she and Henry decamped to Syria and joined Isis.

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  10. I half believe that writers of The Archers are playing a Hitchcock game with the Rob Titchener character. Titchener might be the "wrong man" or the plausible sociopath. Titchener rarely shows a nasty side to other members of the community, so we may be jumping to conclusions. Listeners who dip into the programme occasionally may easily be misled.

    On the other hand, Ian Craig (one of the few Archers characters to be a consistent good egg) loathes Titchener which is sufficiently convincing for me.

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  11. I agree with you about the Hitchcock game. He got great mileage out of male leads who were only sinister if you looked at them in a certain light.

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  12. Further to my "enjoying it" comment regarding "Dickensian".

    We stopped enjoying it from about episode [4]. It might just as well be called "The Havisham/Barbary Chronicles: The Soap Years".

    Poor.

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