Watching the BBC’s critically lauded modern-day version of ‘Sherlock’ last night set me thinking about adaptations.
The general lack of new UK drama on TV (Bryant & May are currently languishing in Development Hell) does remind me of the past’s biggest adaptations, from ‘Brideshead Revisited’ to a not bad (but clearly cash-strapped) version of Patrick Hamilton’s ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky’.
Still, for sheer bravery my award goes to ‘Gormenghast’, condensed by the Beeb to four parts, so tightly budgeted that instead of creating a white crow with CGI they scoured zoos for a real one, and oddly peppered with characters more familiar from soap operas, it was still a wonderful adaptation – although I kept checking my watch at the end to wonder how there was enough time to flood the castle.
A lot of material from the book had to be left out, but the crucial elements were all in place, and for now it remains an exemplary benchmark adaptation. After it aired, angry and disappointed viewers were allowed to attack the production team on air – and even they came to realise what had been achieved. Here’s a picvid put out at the time. The whole four hours is uploadable, but it’s better on DVD. Any other suggestions for great adaptations?