The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, adapted by Sebastian Baczkiewicz

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Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 25 November - 16 December 2012
Reviewing different productions of the same text can prove a fascinating experience.  The Lifehouse Theater of the Air version of the Dumas classic transformed the novel into a rip-roaring epic, complete with scenes of dramatic action interspersed with love scenes, and linked with the kind of atmospheric music characteristic of old-time radio adaptations of the 1940s.
Sasha Yevtushenko and Jeremy Mortimer's Classic Serial adaptation was a far grimier affair.  Narrated by Haydee (Jane Lapotaire) in world-weary tones, it suggested that Edmund Dantes (Iain Glen) was a perpetual victim of fate, and that much of his struggle consisted of trying to assert his capacity for self-determination in a hostile world.  This was no easy task: the threatening sound-scape of a babel of voices, running water and the clash of various types of metals suggested an indifferent, even destructive world.
Edmund's misfortune was that he was born privileged: set for a glittering military career, with an engagement to the beautiful Mercedes, he aroused feelings of extreme jealousy amongst those around him.  Although set in 1815, it seemed that French society had never really changed since the Revolution twenty-six years previously.  The only difference was that it was the military, rather than the hated aristocracy, who were now the objects of general opprobrium.
Edmund ended up being confined in a prison for fourteen years, apparently doomed to live a life of destitution.  Exactly how he deals with this forms the subject of the remaining three episodes.  I can't wait to hear them.