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The History of Titus Groan is a six-part serial by Brian Sibley, broadcast in 2011, based on the novels of Mervyn Peake. It was precipitated by the discovery of a completed sequel, written by Peake's widow, Maeve Gilmore, entitled Titus Awakes. The series is a dramatization of all four books, the first time this has occurred[1].

In 2012, the serial won a BBC Audio Drama Award in the category of Best Adaptation.

Production

In January 2010, Brian Sibley contacted the BBC to suggest expanding his 1984 adaptation of Peake's Titus books, this time including the third novel Titus Alone, and the recently discovered Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore. He had been friends with Gilmore, who showed him portions of the manuscript years before. Jeremey Howe of BBC 4 suggested adapting the series as a six-part Classic Serial, and a decision was made in June 2010 to commission the project.

Sibley, with the support of the Mervyn Peake estate, wrote a new script, ignoring his previous adaptations completely. The serial was recorded starting on 25 May 2011, and ending on 11 June.

Produced by Jeremy Mortimer, the first episode, "Titus Arrives", was broadcast on 10 July 2011, at 3pm[2].

Episode One - "Titus Arrives"

Titus Groan is born.

Cast

  • Titus - Luke Treadaway
  • Artist - David Warner
  • Steerpike - Carl Prekopp
  • Sepulchrave - Paul Rhys
  • Gertrude - Miranda Richardson
  • Dr Prunesquallor - James Fleet
  • Irma Prunesquallor - Tamsin Greig
  • Clarice - Fenella Woolgar
  • Cora - Claudie Blakley
  • Fuchsia - Olivia Hallinan
  • Flay - Adrian Scarborough
  • Abiatha Swelter - Mark Benton
  • Sourdust - James Lailey
  • Nannie Slagg - Jane Whittenshaw
  • Keda - Susie Riddell
  • Various roles - Simon Bubb, Jonathan Forbes, Peter Polycarpou, Alun Raglan, Alex Tregear,
  • Music by Roger Goula
  • Sound Design by Peter Ringrose
  • Produced by Jeremy Mortimer
  • Directed by Gemma Jenkins

Episode Two - "Titus Inherits"

Cast

  • Titus - Luke Treadaway
  • Artist - David Warner
  • Steerpike - Carl Prekopp
  • Sepulchrave - Paul Rhys
  • Gertrude - Miranda Richardson
  • Dr Prunesquallor - James Fleet
  • Irma Prunesquallor - Tamsin Greig
  • Clarice - Fenella Woolgar
  • Cora - Claudie Blakley
  • Fuchsia - Olivia Hallinan
  • Flay - Adrian Scarborough
  • Abiatha Swelter - Mark Benton
  • Sourdust - James Lailey
  • Nannie Slagg - Jane Whittenshaw
  • Keda - Susie Riddell
  • Barquentine - Gerard McDermott
  • Various roles - Simon Bubb, Jonathan Forbes, Peter Polycarpou, Alun Raglan, Alex Tregear

Episode Three - "Titus Discovers

Cast

  • Titus - Luke Treadaway
  • Artist - David Warner
  • Steerpike - Carl Prekopp
  • Young Titus - Hugo Docking
  • Sepulchrave - Paul Rhys
  • Gertrude - Miranda Richardson
  • Dr Prunesquallor - James Fleet
  • Irma Prunesquallor - Tamsin Greig
  • Bellgrove - William Gaunt
  • Clarice - Fenella Woolgar
  • Cora - Claudie Blakley
  • Fuchsia - Olivia Hallinan
  • Flay - Adrian Scarborough
  • Barquentine - Gerard McDermott
  • Nannie Slagg - Jane Whittenshaw
  • Keda - Susie Riddell
  • Voices - Mark Benton, Paul Rhys
  • Various roles - James Lailey, Jonathan Forbes, Alun Raglan, Alex Tregear
  • Music by Roger Goula
  • Sound Design by Peter Ringrose
  • Produced by Jeremy Mortimer
  • Directed by David Hunter

Episode Four - "Titus Departs"

Cast

  • Titus - Luke Treadaway
  • Artist - David Warner
  • Steerpike - Carl Prekopp
  • Young Titus - Hugo Docking
  • Sepulchrave - Paul Rhys
  • Gertrude - Miranda Richardson
  • Dr Prunesquallor - James Fleet
  • Irma Prunesquallor - Tamsin Greig
  • Bellgrove - William Gaunt
  • Clarice - Fenella Woolgar
  • Cora - Claudie Blakley
  • Fuchsia - Olivia Hallinan
  • Flay - Adrian Scarborough
  • Barquentine - Gerard McDermott
  • Nannie Slagg - Jane Whittenshaw
  • Keda - Susie Riddell
  • Voices - Mark Benton, Paul Rhys
  • Various roles - James Lailey, Jonathan Forbes, Alun Raglan, Alex Tregear,
  • Music by Roger Goula
  • Sound Design by Peter Ringrose
  • Produced by Jeremy Mortimer
  • Directed by Gemma Jenkins

Episode Five - "Titus Abroad"

Cast

  • Titus - Luke Treadaway
  • Artist - David Warner
  • Muzzlehatch - Gerard Murphy
  • Juno - Maureen Beattie
  • Acreblade - Alun Raglan
  • Magistrate - Peter Polycarpou
  • Drugg - Jonathan Forbes
  • Various - Elaine Claxton, James Lailey, Gerard McDermott, Susie Riddell, Alex Tregear
  • Music by Roger Goula
  • Sound Design by Peter Ringrose
  • Produced by Jeremy Mortimer
  • Directed by David Hunter

Episode Six - "Titus Alive"

Cast

  • Titus - Luke Treadaway
  • Artist - David Warner
  • Cheeta - Morven Christie
  • Muzzlehatch - Gerard Murphy
  • Juno - Maureen Beattie
  • Anchor - James Lailey
  • Acreblade - Alun Raglan
  • Gertrude - Miranda Richardson
  • Dr Prunesquallor - James Fleet
  • Scientist - Peter Polycarpou
  • Various - Elaine Claxton, Jonathan Forbes, Gerard McDermott, Susie Riddell, Alex Tregear

Critical Reception

"The terrific new adaptation...shows just what radio drama can do in the right hands. It captured every brilliant thing about Peake: the glorious writing; the strangeness; the collision of voices and realities; the satire of now – whenever now is as you read or listen – and the beautiful, vivid conjuring of fragments of the past." - Elizabeth Mahoney, The Guardian[3].

"Dark, angular and haunting, the portraits Mervyn Peake sketched for his Gormenghast series were integral to the evocation of a fantasy kingdom hewn from stone. And they’re given a presence in Brian Sibley’s star-studded BBC radio dramatisation of all four books....moving and sensual as well as funny and grotesque, this is perfect listening for Peake’s centenary year." - Bella Todd, Time Out

"a sublime classic serial from R4...unfolding with luxurious detail yet imbued with a hypnotic narrative pace like a Gothic road movie, had the unmistakable stamp of excellence from the outset." - The Stage[4]

"Brian Sibley's script retained a true flavour of the book, giving us Lady Gertrude with her "coils of dark red hair clustered on the pillows like burning snakes", the servant Flay "patched and brittle like a shard of falling masonry" and the rebel kitchen boy Steerpike with his "dark half closed eyes, hot with hatred". If anything, this lavish delight in language perhaps caused the narrative to flag slightly. The acting, with Miranda Richardson as Gertrude and James Fleet as Prunesquallor, was more than adequate compensation however." - Jane Thynne, The Independent[5]

The serial garnered three nominations in the first-ever BBC Audio Drama Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Carl Prekopp, Best Use of Sound in a Production, and Best Adaptation for Brian Sibley, and won for Best Adaptation.

References

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