The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Gregory Evans

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BBC Radio 7, 17 January 2009
Poe's sea-faring story of Legrand (John Sharlan), his African-American slave Jupiter (Rhashan Stone) and their discovery of buried treasure by means of the gold bug, or scarab, was given a postmodern twist in this adaptation. It began with a newly-created narrator Charles (Clarke Peters) informing listeners that the truth about the discovery had been deliberately obscured, as Poe created a fiction of his own with the white American Legrand as the hero. In Charles's version of the tale, Jupiter (who was actually Charles himself as a young man) deliberately flouted Legrand's authority. Having come across the treasure on his own, he took his own share and concealed it before sealing up the treasure-chest once again and returning to Legrand's side. The next day both Jupiter and Legrand 'discovered' the reasure once again, with Jupiter feigning surprise and delights at Legrand's supposed good fortune. That night Jupiter secretly left Legrand's employment for good, taking his share of the spoils and starting a new life with a new identity as a well-to-do gentleman.
So why was the story told in a different way? In a series of asides Charles explained that Poe was actually an imperialist, who deliberately manipulated a popular story to reaffirm white superiority. Legrand had to be depicted as the master reinforcing his authority, while Jupiter remained the servant, speaking a peculiar dialect of English which the author assumed (quite wrongly) to be characteristic of African-Americans. Jupiter was not even given a surname; it was automatically assumed that he would spend his life in thrall, and therefore had no need for one. In Evans's retelling of the story, Jupiter became financially independent, while Legrand ended his days in penury, having frittered his millions away on dodgy deals. So much for white superiority. This proved extremely satisfying for Charles, who murmured "Good, ain't it?" as he finished telling the story.
This version of The Gold Bug was not so much interested in the treasure-hunt or the scarab, but rather used Poe's tale to mount an incisive critique of American racism in the mid-nineteenth century. The director was Ned Chaillet.