Kind Hearts and Coronets by Robert Hamer and John Dighton, adapted by Gilbert Travers-Thomas

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BBC Radio 7, 13 December 2009
How do you adapt a classic film, whose story, performances and direction are so etched in the public consciousness that it becomes difficult to imagine anyone else doing it? This kind of question is clearly pertinent to the Ealing comedies of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Alexander Mackendrick's The Ladykillers (1955) was badly remade recently with Tom Hanks in the lead, proving beyond doubt that writers cannot simply update the plot and expect to create an entertaining piece. The same difficulties could also apply to Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Robert Hamer's black comedy in which Alec Guinness played multiple roles, and Dennis Price played the multiple murderer.
Adapter Gilbert Travers-Thomas and director Andy Jordan understood the difficulties involved in creating a radio version, and wisely decided to stay close to the original script, even using some of the film's original music to recreate a period feel. Great care was taken in casting: Michael Kitchen played the Dennis Price role of Louis Mazzini as an innocent driven to commit murder by the indifference of his aristocratic family. As he gradually worked hjis way through the D'Ascoynes, he never lost his sang-froid: everything was done in a gentlemanly manner. The D'Ascoyne family was played by Harry Enfield, who obviously thoroughly enjoyed playing multiple roles. Enfield is not a chameleon like Guinness (i.e. someone who so thoroughly absorbs himself in specific roles that it is difficult to identify the 'real' person underneath); rather he is a talented actor/impressionist blessed with a considerable vocal range.

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