Sunday, 29 July 2018

To Kill A King

Title screen from To Kill A King
Alan Garner's 'To Kill A King' was the final episode of the supernatural anthology series 'Leap In The Dark' that ran for 4 series on BBC2 between 1973 and 1980.  Whilst the early series were documentaries the latter two consisted of various dramas written by the likes of Garner, Fay Weldon (author of 'The Life and Loves of a She-Devil') and (the writer of 'Penda's Fen') David Rudkin.

In 'To Kill A King' Garner tells an autobiographically tinged story of an author, Harry (Anthony Bate, Oliver Lacon in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'), haunted by a disconnect with his restless muse as he battles against writer's block or of man rapidly descending into depression and madness as he rages against the turmoil of his mind.

Harry finds a stone head in the pond in To Kill A King by Alan Garner
Garner has spoken in the past of his struggles with depression and in many ways this seem like an exploration of its causes as Harry is pressured from all sides - by colleagues, family, fans but most of all by himself - and as a result 'his head' is submerged in muddy water unable to see the light, a terrifying prospect that throws him into even deeper water. 

As you may have inferred the play is heavy on symbolism with Harry reaching a decision as he emerges from a dark tunnel and the idea of inspiration as a transmission from elsewhere embodied by the presence of Jodrell Bank Observatory at the end of his garden and the plethora of communications technology - typewriter, telephone, television - that haunts him and it's not until he uses 'his head' to break their hold that his muse settles and his block lifts.

The finished piece is an oddly compelling collision of supernatural tale with psychodrama that offers an interestingly ambiguous take on both.


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