Monday, February 18, 2019

Robin Blake's "Rough Music"

Robin Blake is the author of acclaimed works on the artists Van Dyck and Stubbs. He has written, produced and presented extensively for radio, and is widely published as a critic.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Rough Music, his latest Cragg & Fidelis mystery:
To have the luxury of personally screen-casting the characters in my novels! A prospect as delightful as it is unlikely, but here goes.

Titus Cragg is in his early forties – a strong but not overbearing character, capable of great courage, even foolhardiness, but also a man of tender feelings, particularly towards his wife. He can be grumpy, and is on occasion really angry, about the kind of injustices that he frequently faces in his job as coroner. But he is also humorous, tolerant and rarely vindictive. His greatest interest – outside family and work – is his library, and it is to books that he often turns when needing guidance. So: a bookish, uxorious, strong-minded, liberally inclined, justice loving, middle-aged lawyer. Who could take that role?

Sir Ian McKellen would have been perfect for the part, as he was born in Wigan just down the road from Preston. Unfortunately he is now more at home playing white-bearded wizards older than time, rather than forty-something lawyers. I have recently been admiring the BBC television adaptation of Les Miserables in which Dominic West makes a very good job of playing Jean Valjean. Watching him I thought more than once that he would make a pretty good Cragg. Perhaps there is a slightly over-solemn quality in his manner, but if he can lighten up a little I will settle for him.

Elizabeth Cragg is fifteen years younger than Titus. Of course she is pretty, but she is never flighty. Indeed her common sense is legendary and she more than once puts her husband right when his usually reliable judgement lets him down. She also lights up the Cragg family home in Preston with her laughter and sense of fun.

The laughter and the down-to-earth wisdom would be effortlessly provided by Olivia Colman, but I need a younger actor (sorry Olivia), so I’m going for the woman who played opposite Colman in the hit film The Favourite, Emma Stone. Her fine turn as Abigail Masham shows she is well capable of doing a period role and she looks marvellous in silk gowns and garters.

Dr Luke Fidelis is in his mid-thirties. He is cool, tall, rather athletic and impulsive, and possesses an acute analytic intelligence. But he can lose his cool altogether at the sight of a pretty wench. Physically I want someone tall, strong , intense and unorthodoxly attractive – someone like the young Daniel Day-Lewis . Benedict Cumberbatch perhaps but, even at 43, he is a shade too old (sorry Benedict). There must be someone out there…

Robert Furzey, Cragg’s clerk, is a rambunctious piece of work, always complaining about his working conditions though, at the bottom, a loyal employee. Tony Robinson, so memorable as Baldrick in Blackadder, could do it (very much cleaned up compared with Baldrick of course). The same goes for Ron Cook, who was in the TV Les Mis as ‘Hair and Teeth Dealer’, but who I also recently saw on stage in the London season of one-act Pinter plays. I’m sure either actor could project the right paradoxical mixture of burning resentment and tenacious loyalty.
Visit Robin Blake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue