Gormenghast is an ancient city-state which primarily consists of a rambling and crumbling castle. The narrative, based on the first two of the three Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake, begins with the birth of a son, Titus, to the 76th Earl, Sepulchrave Groan, and Countess Gertrude. This mismatched pair (he'd prefer the melancholy privacy of his library; she'd prefer the company of her menagerie of cats and birds) also have a teenaged daughter, Fuchsia, who resents her new brother but comes to love him dearly. Simultaneously, a young kitchen apprentice, Steerpike, takes advantage of an altercation between head cook Swelter and the Earl's manservant, Mr. Flay, and escapes from the kitchens. Gormenghast is rigidly feudal in structure, but Steerpike has ambitions. He befriends the imaginative, yearning Fuchsia, and through her becomes apprenticed to the castle physician, Dr. Prunesquallor, who lives with his man-hunting sister Irma. This position allows Steerpike to work his way into the... Written by
I enjoyed part one of 'Gormenghast' this evening. But it has little more than the names of the characters from the book to remind me what it is. Only Swelter and the Prunesquallors, and with a great deal of tolerance, Lady Gertrude, are true to the characters in Peake's books The sets are beautiful, the music, very technicolour Richard Rodney Bennett stuff ala 'Nicholas and Alexandra' with some interesting old instruments and boy sopranos thrown in. The acting is fine, the script amazingly communicative for such an ambitious condensation of the huge books. But SO much is missing. Why, with all their resources and government funding couldn't the BBC have done the entire story, as they used to do with Dickens, instead of this mod-pop, easy-to-digest, action-packed soap opera with crowns and trained animals? The Tibetan overtones are interesting but an indulgence by the production team that pushes the envelope of Peake's intentions, regardless of the fact of his birth and boyhood in China. The twins are totally beyond the pale, but funny to watch. 'Gormenghast', however, is NOT a funny story, nor is it cute and twee. I mean, Fuchsia, was not in the least beautiful or charming. I could go on but it's not worth it really.
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