Monday, January 30, 2023

Sarah Rayne's "Chalice of Darkness"

Sarah Rayne is the author of many novels of psychological and supernatural suspense, including the Nell West & Michael Flint series. She lives in Staffordshire.

Here Rayne dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Chalice of Darkness, Book One of the Theatre of Thieves series:
It’s an intriguing idea to speculate on actors for a film of your latest book, and the term ‘dream- casting’ opened up a whole world of possibilities for me – most of all that of importing one or two players from the past.

And since Chalice of Darkness is set in the late 19th /early 20th century, and has at its heart a theatre family who also happen to be society thieves, the past offered itself as very rich hunting ground.

However, for the central player, the irrepressible Jack Fitzglen, I’m inclined to favour David Tennant – famous, of course, for his Dr Who years, but also for a great many other roles. I do think he could successfully portray the slightly raffish Jack, master-mind of the family’s various filches, and that he could charm a few ladies along the way.

As for Jack’s dresser and loyal, if sometimes reluctant, assistant – Augustus (Gus) Pocket – I came up with a couple of candidates:

The first is Bernard Cribbins, sadly recently died, but familiar to generations of TV, theatre and film-goers. He always conveyed, brilliantly, a sharp, often slightly-Cockney intelligence, combining it with shrewd suspicion of weak spots in a plan. As well as his many comedy roles, he was also an accomplished Shakespearean actor – there’s a marvellous story that, asked how he felt about undertaking the Bard, Cribbins, straight-faced, said, ‘Well, I’d have to see the script.’

And if there’s to be a time lord in the mix, there seems no reason not to go back a few centuries – specifically to one Will Kempe, a clown-actor from the late 1500s/early1600s, believed by many to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Falstaff. Kempe is mostly remembered for having embarked on an astonishing marathon, in which he danced from London to Norfolk in nine days – a feat which one legend says he undertook for a bet. He seemed to me a very likely candidate for the role of Gus – even across five hundred years there’s the impression of energy, glee, and again, an inbuilt shrewdness.

As for the ladies of the plot, one in particular stands out. This is Daphnis Fitzglen, the majestic actress, admired by Edward VII in her youth and his, and who, even in her later years, can sweep onto a stage with a swish of brocade skirts and inspect the front row of the stalls through a lorgnette with a stare that silences even the most chattersome audience.

I think there’s only one lady of the theatre who could portray her. The redoubtable Dame Edith Evans.

The mixture of a Time Lord, an Elizabethan comedy-player, a well-known UK actor, and a formidable English dame, could make for an explosive result on the screen.
Visit Sarah Rayne's website.

Q&A with Sarah Rayne.

--Marshal Zeringue