014 Adaptation – New
Listening to BBC Radio’s massive adaptation of The Forsytes was an undertaking (I’ve not included The Forsytes Continue which was heard in May). Based on the novels of once-famous John Galsworthy, the BBC of course dominated the costume drama genre in 1967 with its TV adaptation. Myself, I first caught ITV’s version on Masterpiece Theatre in the Noughties. However, this was enough to prompt me to read the novels, which I enjoyed very much. I had mixed feelings at first about this interesting radio adaptation (two Saturday Dramas + 5 15 Minute Dramas = 3 ¼ hours). The music by Neil Brand is understandably accomplished and memorable. Jessica Raine, who I quickly realized must be Fleur, starts out as a really intrusive narrator. Occasionally the narrator brings nuances to people’s actions, especially characters like Soames who don’t say what they’re thinking (Soames also has a couple monologues which work fine, as he’s thinking aloud). Still, part of me thinks that if an actor is good enough, even on radio he should be able to let the subtext speak without the narrator barging in. The narrator underlines what she herself says: the next generation always finds the norms of the previous one to be old-fashioned; to rebel is the endless cycle of youth. While I agree that this was certainly a theme of the books, I felt like we don’t need to be hit over the head with. The casting is overall strong; Juliet Aubrey is excellent as Irene, and Joseph Millson is really stunning as Soames. The adaptation followed the main thread of the novels quite well, although I was really shocked that the Winifred and Monty storyline was shunted off into Episode 5, just so Holly and Val could get together. Hats off on the interaction between Old Jolyon, Jo, and Irene; all their scenes together were heart-warming and believable. Also, I was very impressed by a short scene where Soames has to tell his parents that Irene has left him, and for once his mask slips and he breaks down, but is admonished by his mother, “We don’t do that.” As Soames’ obsession with Irene grows, it’s actually harder and harder to empathize with her; Soames would never see his gestures as grandly romantic, and all the other characters seem to see them as stalker-ish and borderline sociopath. Still, I found it very moving; at one point in episode 7, Young Jolyon says he can’t decide whether Soames is a comic or tragic figure, and maybe that’s what makes him such a good character: he’s villain, buffoon, and tragic lover all in one. Another really good sequence was when Fleur was born, and, in spite of himself, Soames fell in love with his baby girl. It took awhile, but this adaptation won me over. It was adapted by Shaun McKenna and starred Harry Haden-Patton, Jeremy Prothero, Rebecca Hamilton, Ewan Bailey, Gerard McDermott, Sean Baker, Jessica Turner, Deborah Baker, Joel McCormack, George Watkins, Katie Redford, Chris Pavlo, Aurelie Amblard, Susan Jameson. It was directed by the very able Marion Nancarrow.