Monday, September 5, 2011

The Drood Conclusion

Matthew Rhys, the Welsh actor who plays a brother in American TV series Brothers and Sisters, will return to Britain to star in the second Dickens adaptation announced as part of the BBC's celebrations of the great man's birth. Rhys will appear in the central role of pronvincial choirmaster John Jasper in the dark tale of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, to be directed by Diarmuid Lawrence, who knows exactly what he's doing having recently worked on the excellent Emma, South Riding and Little Dorrit adaptations. John Jasper is a troubled man who has spent his life in the stifling and claustrophobic cathedral town of Cloisterham in a state of frustrated ambition and has become addicted to opium in an attempt to still his ennui and expand his horizons. The opium is fracturing his mind, however, so that even as his soul reaches for the sublime in his music, his darker self has conceived a murderous hatred of his nephew Edwin Drood who, he believes, stands between him and the lovely Rosa. When Edwin disappears under mysterious circumstances, the audience will discover exactly how far Jasper is willing to go to attain the object of his desire.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was Dickens's final novel and left half-finished at the time of his death. Therefore, Gwyneth Hughes, who imagined Jane Austen's later years to critical acclaim in Miss Austen Regrets, was challenged with writing a suitable conclusion to this intriguing psychological thriller. It was an offer too good to refuse, according to Hughes: "The tragedy of the erotically obsessed cathedral choirmaster, John Jasper, throbs with sexual menace, murder and opium addiction. But alongside his story runs a brilliant small-town social comedy which is often laugh-out-loud funny. After all, this is Dickens, the great emotional extremist, and master of the rollercoaster ride. It's just the most enormous fun." Edwin will be played by Freddie Fox, soon to be seen in The Three Musketeers on the big screen, with Tamzin Merchant, soon to be seen in Jane Eyre on the big screen, as Rosa. The various resident of Cloisterham will be brought to life by Rory Kinnear, Ian McNeice, Ellie Haddington, Sacha Dhawan, David Dawson, Julia McKenzie, Ron Cook, Janet Dale and Dickens regular Alun Armstrong.

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