Painter, musician, bibliophile...
In this BBC radio play, we find Lambert Strether "on embassy" to Paris, where is has gone to retrieve his widowed finacee's son Chad. The family suspects Chad has become involved in a most unsuitable situation and they want him back in Massachusetts as soon as possible.
In a story by turns comical, romantic, and sad, Strether finds himself gradually transformed by his experiences abroad, and Chad's true character comes as something of a surprise.
The cast is good, but there are inevitably a few brief moments of unintentional hilarity that ensue when British actors try to emulate American and French accents. Still, that's all part of the fun.
I've been meaning to read THE AMBASSADORS for years. I love James, but he's never easy, and this particularly complex masterpiece is some 450 pages long! One day, I shall read that great doorstop of a book. Until then, I'm happy to have listened to the radio play, and hope you'll find it entertaining, too.
This book is as promised: a concise introduction to the plays of Shakespeare for older children. The actors performing the roles are outstanding, and David Timson's narration is beautiful. As with other children's collections, the salacious bits are glossed over or eliminated, but the substance of the story remains intact. Themes of tragedy, heroism, morality, and much more provide opportunities for further discussion. As opposed to written texts, listening helps to develop an ear for the unique language of Shakespeare and provides a preliminary foundation for future theatrical experience.
"The Wild Duck" centers on the Ekdahl and Werle families.
The patriarch of the former, called "Old Ekdahl," has fallen from grace due to his previous imprisonment for a crime he may not have committed. He does copying for Håkon Werle, but isn't quite all there: at home he wears his uniform and shoots rabbits he keeps in the attic.
Hjalmar Ekdahl, his son, is a photographer. He is married to Gina, a former servant in the household of Håkon Werle. They have a teenage daughter, Hedwig, who is going blind.
Håkon Werle's son Gregers has just returned from exile, and is enraged to find Gina married to Hjalmar. Gregers' mother died believing her husband had an affair with Gina, and he suspects Hjalmar doesn't know. Gregers rents a room from the Ekdahls with a single purpose: "I intend to open his eyes."
Hjalmar Ekdahl is a dreamer who does not allow anyone to discuss "unpleasant matters" (like reality) with him. He tells everyone he's working on a magnificent invention; this apparently requires hours of solitude, quiet, and lying on sofas. Sadly for his wife and daughter, "within his own little circle he's always been mistaken for a shining light."
The tangled interactions between these characters (and a few more) culminate in the heart-breaking events of the last scene.
Overall, "The Wild Duck" is a well-acted and produced masterwork of psychological realism.
An Ideal Husband is my favorite of Wilde's works, and I chose to listen to this version specifically because it was presented as an audio version of the play. And were it not for Yeardley Smith as Mabel, I would have given this 5 stars. Unfortunately, I had a rather nails-on-the-chalkboard reaction to Yeardley Smith's voice. That's what I get for not listening to the sample, I suppose. I'll probably listen to An Ideal Husband again, but not this version of it.
This recording is a performance featuring Rosalind Ayres, Jacqueline Bisset, Paul Gutrecht, Martin Jarvis, Robert Machray, Miriam Margolyes, Alfred Molina, Jim Norton and Yeardley Smith.