Gormenghast: Titus Groan at Covent Garden

I’ve got invitation to 3 different bookish events in the period of 2 months, which I found amazing, considering how I have turned into a casual blogger. This whole casual thing might just work after all!

So last weekend I was invited to a play of Gormenghast: Titus Groan by Blackshaw Theatre at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. I was so excited! I love love play and theatre. (Did I tell you I was in theatre club in high school?) And one that is adaptation from a book is a plus. I have not read the Gormenghast series (starting from Titus Groan, which is what the play is based on), but I’ve heard of it and I also went to the Mervyn Peake exhibition of illustrations and handwritten pieces at the British Library a while ago. It was wonderful! (On that day I went for Neil Gaiman panel talk and met Nymeth and Sakura for the first time. I just remember about that and just realized I forgot to write about it here – or maybe was just lazy.)

I love Peake’s illustrations. And from what I heard from people, like Dickens, he created great characters. I was so happy to find out that this is true! The characters were interesting and the casts of the play have portrayed them wonderfully. My absolute favourites were the two sisters Lady Cora (Angela Ferns) and Lady Clarice (Clare Harlow), who talked and moved in unison, in equally tilted body position, both wearing purple dresses, and have this dumb (but adorable) look. For me they almost stole the show! It’s hard to imagine for them to be described better in the book (in the whole book is always better argument). Other standout performances were the Doctor (Alexander Pankhurst) and the Nanny (Sarah Shelton), both hilarious in their own ways. But really, I thought everybody was excellent and so dedicated!

Moving back a little bit, for those of you who don’t know much about the book, Titus Groan is set in this gothic castle somewhere in a high mountain, which has been there for centuries and has pretty rigid custom and inheritance line. Titus is the baby of the Lord of the castle who’s just been born and is the next in line for the throne. (Interestingly though his name is in the title, he’s just a baby, so takes no real part in the scene.) The main character really is Steerpike, the ambitious kitchen boy who does everything he can to go up the ladder with the purpose to overtake the throne one day. But the castle is a crowded place, so we have lots of characters, each with their own interest and problem: the Lord Groan and his wife (yes Groan is their family name!), the eldest daughter of the Lord, the twin sisters of the Lord, the Lord’s personal assistant, the nanny of the baby, the family doctor and his sister, the chef, the Library Lord, plus a bunch of minor characters – some I’m sure have been cut off from the book in the play. After seeing the play I would really like to read the book! And apparently there is BBC mini series based on the book series so I might check out that one too.

So back to the play, my only quibble is that they did not use microphones. Which kinda reminded me of high school time, because we also had the same problem. We did lots of exercise to talk loud and clear, but it’s always tricky to reach all the audience. In Gormenghast play we sat on the third row, and at the beginning it was really hard to comprehend anything they said. The church was a good idea for doing a play, but it was quite echo-ey. It got much better after a while – probably because we got used to it. But still the problem stayed when the characters were positioned further from us or when they spoke not in our direction. Understandably good microphones and sound system are expensive, but it would definitely be a worthy investment for future plays! We sat on the third row from the front and I imagine the people at the back might have more difficulties in catching the words, though I appreciate the team really tried to use the space and moved around, not solely stayed at the front stage.

All in all it was a lovely night and we really enjoyed it. It was quite a unique venue with wonderful performances throughout. I would like to thank Cole and the Blackshaw team for inviting us. I’m gonna keep an eye on their future plays :)

Mee in front of the church

Mee in front of the church. The blossoming flowers were so pretty!

inside the church

Inside the church with my companion for the night at the corner. I wish I had taken pictures during the play! My phone died just before the play started. Have to be more ready next time


Gormenghast: Titus Groan at St Paul’s Church (11-14 April 2012)


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7 thoughts on “Gormenghast: Titus Groan at Covent Garden”

    1. Jackie, yes your good review of Titus Groan is one of the things that encourage me to read the book. It’s definitely on my read-list!

  1. How lovely! I’ve actually only seen the TV adaptation of Gormenghast (have you seen it?) and although I had the book, I gave it away without reading it. I still think I should read it but I’m so lazy these days that if I see a film or tv adaptation I don’t bother any more. Should I???

    1. Lol I can understand. I think I get lazier too and I choose to watch the adaptation first more often now (I used to be very adamant about watching before reading, but now not so much). If I really like the adaptation I may want to read the book, if not I don’t bother. (The last one I saw was Girl with a Pearl Earring – now I don’t think I’m gonna read the book, since the movie is visually pretty, but the plot is very simple). I haven’t seen the TV adaptation of Gormenghast. I’m really not sure if I should go for the tv series or the book first. Hopefully the book. Jackie’s rave review makes me want to read it. But with such a long tbr, I don’t know when I’m gonna get to it realistically!

      1. I was adamant too about reading before watching but now I never catch up with my reading on time! However, like Stu, I didn’t think the tv series was that great so may be that put me off the book. So it’s probably better to read it first!

  2. I hated the tv series it lost so much of peakes eye for detail in the books ,I hope the play was good I think work better on stage ,lovely meeting bloggers I ve met two so far in real life ,all the best stu

    1. Oh I was just talking about the tv series with sakura and now you make me not want to watch it anymore. I think I’m quite convinced that I should go for the book now when I get a chance. I thought the play was really quite good, and the church setting worked well. But I presumed they cut a lot of details out of the book, understandably, which I’m quite curious to find out more about.

      I have only met 4 bloggers so far in real life, which is not bad at all I think, considering I never actually planned to meet any when I started the blog ;)

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