BBC Radio 4, 11 May 2011
A French chateau; a lonely landscape; suspects confined to barracks;
a guillotine; and a corpse with a severed head. Such were the ingredients of Bert Coules' adaptation of the Father Brown tale.
The story unfolded satisfyingly enough, with enough high emotion to fill any Victorian melodrama. The dead person wasn't a
very nice man; one felt he deserved his grisly fate. However in the Chestertonian universe the moral balance has to be restored;
hence Father Brown (Richard Greenwood), who just happened to be in the neighbourhood when the murder took place, had to be
called in to restore order.
Kirsteen Cameron's production did not have much of a French feel to it, despite the
frequent colloquialisms ("Mon Dieu," but sadly not "sacre bleu"). Stylistically it resembled an Agatha Christie country-house
mystery, with the characters confined against their collective will, and exclaiming "that's fantastic," whenever Father Brown
called their reputations into question.
However the adaptation was predominantly designed as a vehicle for Greenwood's cleric
- a polite, rather reserved figure remaining in the background. Even at the end, when he put the pieces of the jigsaw together
and revealed the crime, he retained some sympathy for the culprit, calling him "quite insane," rather than a true criminal.
No one felt the need to challenge him; instead they admired his ingenuity in solving a crime based on flimsy evidence.
While The Secret Garden contained plot-conventions characteristic of the
detective genre (why is it that criminals just make one mistake that prevents them from solving the perfect crime?), Cameron's
production offered the pleasures of Greenwood's central performance.