Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Passions, no greater than candle flames, flickered in Time's yawn

"Drear ritual turned its wheel. The ferment of the heart, within these walls, was mocked by every length of sleeping shadow. The passions, no greater than candle flames, flickered in Time's yawn, for Gormenghast, huge and adumbrate, out-crumbles all."

With a cast that included the cream of British acting talent - Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Celia Imrie, Ian Richardson, Neve McIntosh, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, John Sessions, Fiona Shaw, June Brown, Zoë Wanamaker, Lynsey Baxter, Stephen Fry, Warren Mitchell, Windsor Davies, Eric Sykes, Gregor Fisher, Mark Williams, Martin Clunes, Steve Pemberton, Phil Cornwell, James Dreyfus, Sean Hughes, and the last screen appearance of Spike Milligan who died less than two years later - the BBC adaptation of Gormenghast in 2000 was a masterful tribute to Mervyn Peake's "soaring flight of fancy".

A Gothic tale of phenomenally camp proportions, Gormenghast proved entirely suited to a screen adaptation, with its fantastical towers, its almost Medieval rituals, its odd and sometimes scary characters, its light and dark shades - as the reviewer Langdon Jones observes:
"...as well as having an extraordinary verbal facility, Peake was an artist, and the books are amazingly visual. Of course, the television production was visually stunning. A real effort had been made not only to conform as closely as possible to Peake’s descriptions, but to make them as seductive to the eye as possible. The colours at the beginning were reds - ranging from deep scarlet to sepia. In the last episode they had become burnt umber, and dark greens, dark blues and greys predominated."
And did I mention the camp?

A feast for the senses - and a fitting tribute to Mr Peake himself (tragically taken away too young - he died of Parkinsons-related dementia at 57), who would have been 92 today.

Mervyn Peake (9th July 1911 - 17th November 1968)

Gormenghast on Wikipedia

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