Dr. Prunesquallor, the castle physician, delivers baby Titus and soon thereafter takes on the recently escaped Steerpike as his apprentice. Despite his outlandish appearance, he is one of the most astute residents of Gormenghast, but nonetheless remains a slave to its traditions.
A few minutes of listening to John Sessions in full flight is enough to convince anyone that he was born to play the part of Gormenghast's servile physician. "His speech is some of the most elaborate in a very elaborate novel," says Sessions. "It is this fantastically baroque filigree. He is a bit of a silly ass, but he is also a sort of Hercule Poirot, the man who eventually figures it all out, albeit with brontosaurus powers of deduction."
Sessions's love for Peake's work is so great he would probably have considered reconstructive surgery to play Prunesquallor. "I read it when I was a teenager," he recalls. "It fell into my generation's 'books you have to read' category. It is quite miraculous and utterly unique. It is like Dickens on crack. It touches on two plays of Shakespeare, Dickens, Balzac, and Tolstoy, and it is brought together in a way that is utterly original, that is not derivative of any of them." As it was, Sessions had to undergo a transformation at the hands of the Gormenghast makeup and costume department to play the theatrical and loquacious doctor.
A popular comic actor who has appeared frequently on the British improvisational television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Sessions has also performed in ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre's Henry V.
In Peake's words:
"The doctor with his hyena laugh and his bizarre and elegant body, his celluloid face. His main defects? The insufferable pitch of his voice; his maddening laugh and his affected gestures. His cardinal virtue? An undamaged brain."
-- Gormenghast, Chapter 1
|Steerpike | Groan | Gertrude | Titus | Fuchsia | Flay
Swelter | Nannie | Barquentine | Clarice + Cora
Dr. Prunesquallor | Irma Prunesquallor | Bellgrove
Home | The Novels | Behind the Scenes | The Film
Cast + Credits | Site Map
© | WGBH | PBS