Silas Marner by George Eliot, adapted by Philip Glassborow

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BBC Radio 7, 19-20 August 2010
Atmospherically adapted with plenty of orchestral music - setting a quasi-melodramatic tone, Philip Glassborow's 2001 production approached the novel as a rite-of-passage tale in which the eponymous hero (Michael Williams) was at first cast out of his community, after having been falsely accused of theft, and subsequently discovered happiness in the small working-class community of Ravenal. At first this happiness was measured in purely financial terms, but after Silas was robbed by Dunstan Cass (Christopher Naylor), he discovered the importance of familial love, after having brought up his adoptive daughter Eppy (Finty Williams). The relationship between adoptive father and daughter was sensitively handled: Silas had no real idea how to treat the girl when she was a baby, but through sheer persistence, coupled with some timely advice from Nancy (Cathy Sara), he learned that true parenting was based not on doing things right, but on love alone, and he had plenty of that to give.
The climactic scene, in which Godfrey Cass (Alex Jennings) revealed to Eppy that he was actually her father from his marriage to Molly Cross (Eleanor Tremain), was sensitively handled. While Godfrey undoubtedly had the prior claim on the girl, Marner maintained in his quite but stoical manner that he had spent years of his life bringing her up. His low, gruff tones contrasted with Godfrey's rather supercilious manner, making Eppy's decision to stay with Silas that much easier. It seemed somehow right that she should have made such a choice; Silas had suffered for most of his life, and now it was time for his luck to change.
Although the production placed strong emphasis on the family theme - revealing its origins as a production financed by the Christian organization Focus on the Family, rather than a BBC in-house revival - director Glassborow emphasized the social conflicts inherent in Ravenal society. Dunstan and Godfrey basically loathed one another; and their loathing was reinforced by their father Squire Cass's (Edward Woodward's) indifference. He was far more interested in upper-class pursuits such as hunting. Hence Dunstan had full licence not only to behave as he wished, but to abuse those less fortunate than himself. As he took the money from Marner's house, Dunstan described his actions in a running commentary delivered direct to the listeners, as if half-expecting them to approve of what he was doing. When he had finished, he had the gall to justify himself thus; as Marner was one of his family's tenants, any money that the weaver had saved also belonged to the family. It seemed somehow appropriate to the production's morality that Dunstan should pay for his sins with an untimely death, having not spent any of his ill-gotten gains.
Silas Marner was the last thing Michael Williams ever did, prior to his death from lung cancer. Apparently the production proved especially difficult for Williams and his daughter Finty, as they found so much in Eliot's story that also applied to their own lives. Despite this, Williams' Silas came across as an admirable person, who deserved what little happiness he could find at the end of the story.