The 76th Earl of Gormenghast, the melancholy Lord Groan, has grown weary of both his position and his loveless marriage to Gertrude. He seeks refuge in his beloved library which Cora and Clarice, goaded by Steerpike, destroy. When the library goes, the mentally unstable Groan slips into madness.
Actor Ian Richardson believes that Lord Groan is the most complex character he has played in his 40-year career, which includes a recent turn as the corrupt Francis Urquhart in ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre's House of Cards. The chance to speak Mervyn Peake's rich baroque dialogue made the job even more enjoyable. "I have to confess that I miss the wonderful, exquisite language of the classical theatre. . ." he says. "That is what was so nice about this. The scene with Fuchsia, when Lord Groan is going completely mad, is straight out of King Lear."
Director Andy Wilson's love of visual comedy also prodded Richardson into new areas. As Groan descends into madness he begins to imitate the actions of an owl. Richardson went so far as to study the bird's movements on video. "It took some doing to get it accurate," he laughs. "Actors are magpies of human experience. As an actor in my 60s I have a lifetime of experience behind me, but imitating an owl was something new!"
In Peake's words:
... a dark figure stole forth, closing the door behind him quietly, and with an air of the deepest dejection.... His face was very long and was olive coloured. The eyes were large, and of an eloquence, withdrawn. His nostrils were mobile and sensitive. His mouth, a narrow line....
-- Titus Groan, "Sepulchrave"
|Steerpike | Groan | Gertrude | Titus | Fuchsia | Flay
Swelter | Nannie | Barquentine | Clarice + Cora
Dr. Prunesquallor | Irma Prunesquallor | Bellgrove
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