The career of Patrick Garland, who has died aged 78, was as varied as it was productive. An actor, producer, director, writer and anthologist, he was a leading light of the BBC TV arts department for 12 years, twice artistic director of the Chichester Festival theatre and a close friend and associate of Alan Bennett, Rex Harrison, Eileen Atkins and Simon Callow.
Although he harboured ambitions in feature films, and directed a 1971 television adaptation of Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose (starring Richard Harris and an Emmy award-winning Jenny Agutter), as well as a creditable 1973 movie of Ibsen's A Doll's House (with Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins), his life developed in the theatre. Much of his work was informed by his love of literature, and the poetry of Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Philip Larkin and John Clare. In
Based on the 1999 play by Ronald Harwood and directed by Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, Quartet is entirely set at Beecham House, named after Sir Thomas Beecham, a famously oddball British conductor. It’s a picturesque rural mansion that serves as a dwelling for over-the-hill orchestra and operatic performers who wish to spend their final years in relative comfort and like-minded companionship.
Dustin Hoffman was 30 when he made his screen debut as the 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. Three years later, in 1970, he played the 121-year-old frontiersman Jack Crabb in Arthur Penn's western Little Big Man. In his 50s he returned to star as Willy Loman and Shylock. So he knows something about the vagaries of ageing. It seems therefore not inappropriate that he makes his confident directorial debut at 75, directing a formidable ensemble cast ranging in age from the 31-year-old Sheridan Smith to actors pushing 80 and beyond in a movie adapted by the 78-year-old Ronald Harwood from his own adroitly crafted play Quartet.
Sheridan Smith plays Dr Lucy Cogan, sympathetic manager and resident physician at Beecham House, a handsomely appointed home for elderly opera singers fallen on hard times. It's
"In this life," Sir Thomas Beecham is said to have advised us, "try everything once, except incest and morris dancing" – an admonition that Michael Winterbottom, Britain's most prolific and versatile director, has followed. Indeed after 9 Songs, his venture into unsimulated sex between consenting actors, he may well be contemplating an excursion into cinematic incest. Winterbottom's movies have ranged from the music scene in Manchester to incarceration in Guantánamo, and at regular intervals he has made versions of Thomas Hardy novels on three continents.
In 1996, quite early in his career, he adapted Jude the Obscure with some fidelity to its plot and its Victorian times with Christopher Eccleston as the doomed Wessex stonemason and Kate Winslet as his deranged second wife. In 2000 he transposed The Mayor of Casterbridge to the Californian gold rush of the 1860s as The Claim,
No other composer polarises opinion like Delius. You either love or loathe his music. And it is rare to find someone who has grown to like it. Although this coming year – the 150th anniversary of his birth – will bring opportunities to reassess his work, that central fact will never change.
I feel as if I have known Delius's music forever. My father was a devotee and I must have heard all of his most famous works (On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, The Walk to the Paradise Garden, La Calinda, et al) well before I started playing his cello music. I always felt instinctively attuned to Delius's unique musical language, which seemed akin to watching a painting that is slowly changing in a constantly moving canvas of sound.
There is a curse on any composer rash enough to set Goethe's Faust to music. The German literary genius declared only Mozart capable of adapting his epic drama of damnation, sexual betrayal, witchcraft and freeform philosophic meditation. Selfishly, Mozart had died in 1791, almost 20 years before Goethe completed part one. So forever after, we have been doomed to suffer Faustian adaptations that the author would have disdained.
Perhaps Goethe's curse was issued because of That Thing he had with Beethoven. When Goethe met Beethoven (What a film! Hugh Bonneville as genteel, bewigged Goethe; Russell Crowe as Beethoven, surly and spoiling for a fight), the former bowed like a courtier; the latter didn't even remove his hat. You can see how
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