Category Archives: Theatre, Film & Television

Conrad on Film – The Secret Agent


Joseph Conrad’s Edwardian novel The Secret Agent (1907) is currently being serialized on BBC television, starring Toby Jones and Vicky McClure. Conrad, as previous events listed here have shown, has been adapted multiple times for stage, screen and radio. The last BBC adaptation of The Secret Agent was, in fact, as recent as 1992.

If you know of any other adaptations of Edwardian texts that we have missed this summer, please do let us know!

Crinoline, Chenille Nets, and Pork-Pie Hats

Irene Vanburgh in 'Trelawny of the "Wells"', costume notes.

Irene Vanburgh in ‘Trelawny of the “Wells”‘, costume notes.

‘At last I have seen Pinero’s ‘Trelawny of the “Wells”’ and am not converted to crinoline, chenille nets, and pork-pie hats. How beauties in ‘the early sixties’ contrived to appear beautiful in such deforming costumes one is at a loss to imagine… The plot is slight, but interesting.’ (E E B. Harper’s Bazaar, April 30th 1898)

Arthur Wing Pinero’s almost-Edwardian play ‘Trelawny of the “Wells”’ is being revived by the film director Joe Wright at the Donmar Warehouse in London this month. First performed in 1898, it not only spawned an interest in 1860s’ fashions, but two paintings starring actresses Hilda Spong and Irene Vanburgh by leading artists Walter Sickert and William Rothenstein.

‘When Pinero’s Trelawny of the Wells was put on at the Court Theatre, I went with Sickert to see this enchanting piece. Here was a play which seemed written for our delight. What fun it all was; and how enchanting the costumes! And such a chance it provided that Sickert asked Miss Hilda Spong – a magnificent creature who acted a part – to sit for him; while I approached Irene Vanbrugh. Miss Vanbrugh took infinite trouble, and endured many sittings. Sickert had Miss Spong photographed, and from a small print and with few sittings he achieved a life-size portrait. Miss Vanbrugh’s portrait I sent to the first exhibition of the International Society.’ (William Rothenstein, Men and Memories, Vol I, p.335)

Sickert’s portrait, appropriately enough, was titled ‘The Pork Pie Hat: Hilda Spong in the Trelawny of the “Wells”’. See Wendy Baron, Sickert, Paintings and Drawings (New Haven 2006), p.215 for more information. See more on Hilda Spong here.

Parade’s End Begins

‘This, Titejens thought, is England! A man and a maid walk through Kentish grass fields: the grass ripe for the scythe. The man honourable, clean, upright; the maid virtuous, clean, vigorous; he of good birth; she of birth quite as good; each filled with a too good breakfast that each could yet capably digest. Each come just from an admirably appointed establishment: a table surrounded by the best people, their promenade sanctioned, as it were, by the Chuch – two clergy – the State, two Government officials; by mothers, friends, old maids’ (Ford Madox Ford, Parade’s End)

The BBC adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy Parade’s End begins tonight at nine, on BBC 2.

See here for information regarding an academic conference on the book, to be held at the end of September.

Turn Back Time: The Family

Tomorrow night the BBC will air Turn Back Time: The Family, a five-part documentary following modern families as they ‘live’ in the style of those from different periods of the twentieth century. First up are the Edwardians: if the preview on the Telegraph website is anything to go by, the ‘Edwardian era’ recreated here should go some way towards dispelling the ‘sepia-toned … splendid facade’ of the likes of Downton Abbey. No word yet, however, on the number of floppy hats that will feature…
Turn Back Time: The Family will air on BBC 1 on Tuesday 26th June at 9pm.

Composer, Lover, Enigma

Delius by Rothenstein

Frederick Delius, by William Rothenstein (1919)

On Friday 25th May the BBC will air a new documentary on the life of the influential composer, and key Edwardian cultural figure, Frederick Delius (1862-1934). This boldly titled programme – Frederick Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma – aims to explore the ‘multiple contradictions of his colourful life’, not least the contentious issue of his British identity.

The programme also forms part of a wider celebration of Delius’s life and work, marking 150 years since his birth in Bradford. For a comprehensive list of events, including live performances of Delius’s work, please see the Delius Society website.