I have revealed myself to myself as something of a hypocrite. Whilst in theory I delight in the idea of a post-electric society in which people return to small agrarian communities, in practice I get in a rage if my beloved electricals do not work. So on my return to the flat, after two weeks away, I found that storms Desmond and Eva had been at work: the internet had gone down and none of my favourite programmes had been recorded. So what did happen in The Last Kingdom (a delightful pre-electric story) and The Bridge? Why was my bath water not running hot? Everything seemed to be a disaster. But, all the switches were refreshed, and I was anticipating the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None .
Apparently pre-reviewers, especially in the Daily Mail were up in arms about the text being blighted with swearing and sex. Sounds good to me. Would, commentators speculated, Aidan Turner repeat his notorious torso acting from Poldark? Rumours suggested, yes! I don’t mind that either, although, in the event, when he did so the stylist had arranged his towel in such a silly way that my attention was stolen by his knot.
Sophie Hannah wrote an impassioned piece in The Guardian in which she analyses the responses to the new adaptation of, what many consider to be, Christie’s greatest murder mystery. For this novel, Christie eschews her stalwart detectives, Poirot and Marples, choosing instead, an extreme version of the country house mystery. But, to complicate matters, this country house is located on an island off the Devon coast; an island which is cut off from the mainland in bad weather. Storms, like Desmond and Eva, raged continuously during the action, causing one character to shout, in agony, that he could not bear the sound of the wind. I sympathised, as we watched some of the series against the background of storm Frank:
“Blow winds and crack your cheeks, rage! blow!/You cataracts and hurricanoes spout!/Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks.” The rest of the three episodes were snatched from us by Frank, who interrupted our signal. He certainly “drench’d” our satellite dish.
If you did manage to see the show, or if you ever manage to see the show, you might want to read the screenwriter – Sarah Phelps’s interview in The Guardian. What interests both women, Hannah and Phelps, is not only the incredible craft of the novel – killing off ten people, one by one, with the murderer apparently among them – but the tragic weight and intensity of the work. It is not mere frivolity, they suggest, but serious moral argument. And it’s great to see an Irish actor getting so much attention: apparently he could star as James Bond next! If so, I shall be sure to go to see him at the cinema so that my viewing is uninterrupted by technical issues. Before then, welcome storm Gertrude. I was going to read a book anyway! Happy New Year to everyone.
Christie, A. And Then There Were None (first published as Ten Little Niggers). 1939. Collins Crime Club.
Shakespeare, W. King Lear. Act Three, scene three.
Wilson engraving: David Garrick as King Lear. UCG Folger Collection.