Fox is an actor I could happily watch reading the telephone directory,
so much charm and ease does he bring to every performance. And if there
are stray moments in this programme that approach that, it says more
about my limited affinity for the novels of Anthony Trollope than about
19th-century chronicler of clergy and gentry in an imagined cathedral
city and its surrounding county. Deviser-director Richard Digby Day has
selected moments from the six Barsetshire novels and put them in the
frame of excerpts from Trollope's autobiography.
Fox to present Trollope as an amiable gentleman who enjoyed both
writing and the trappings of success, and who is glad to introduce us
to his favourite characters.
from The Warden
we meet the title character, a remarkably honourable little clergyman
who doesn't feel he deserves the very generous stipend of his position
and shocks those around him by resigning. The bishop's wife
Barchester Towers has a personal pipeline to heaven and sees to it that
nothing happens in the diocese without her oversight and approval. And
when that good lady dies a few volumes later, the poor bishop can't be
sure whether what he feels is grief or relief.
selections emphasise is Trollope as social satirist, and Edward Fox
skilfully winnows out every hint of humour or irony, delivering them
with the barest suggestion of an arched eyebrow.
similarly subtle - and all the more effective for it - in his reading
of the one dark selection, a passage from Framley Parsonage describing
the body- and soul-destroying effects of poverty on a very poorly paid
country parson. Fox doesn't drive anything home, but just lets the
quiet anger of the writing creep slowly into his delivery.
Dickens. He operates in miniatures and subtle suggestions easily missed
in the grand scope of the novels, rather than in broad strokes. And so,
for all Edward Fox's talent and sensitivity, the selections from the
novels repeatedly threaten to go on a little too long after making
their little points, and it is at those moments that the actor is in
greatest danger of losing us.
am glad to be
shown that there are subtleties to Trollope I didn't see in my own
reading. I am very glad, as always, to witness the grace, skill and
intelligence of one of my favourite actors.
unless you are
more attuned to Trollope's vision than I, I think it will be the actor,
more than the novelist, who will make this a pleasurable evening.
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- Trollope in Barsetshire - Riverside 2011