Watership Down (Classic Serial) - thoughts after the second episode!

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David Buttery

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Oct 6, 2002, 7:43:57 PM10/6/02
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Well, it was better than part one, that's for sure, if not exactly
brilliant.

The actors seemed to have worked out that actually having
distinguishable voices is A Good Thing on radio, and it was much easier
to work out who was who, though Dandelion's voice was still hard to
make out, and poor old Pipkin still wasn't allowed any lines.

General Woundwort's character I thought worked pretty well - he
reminded me rather of a slightly less bonkers General Melchett from
"Blackadder Goes Forth" - and the military setup of Efrafa was
reasonably well reflected, though it was rather pointless to refer (on
several occasions) to "Marks" without any explanation of what they were
[1].

Another big plus was right at the end, with Hazel's death scene. It was
altered a fair bit from the book, but in this case I can forgive that,
as the part of the Black Rabbit was played excellently by - I assume -
Christian Rodska. (I say "I assume", as he's listed in the cast list as
"Kehaar/Stranger".) It was the only part of the whole two-hour play
that I found genuinely moving.

The final character to stand out was that of Nelthilta, a small role
but one played with great verve by Felicity Jones. Her snide comments
to Bigwig ("big mouth, more like") were great fun, although she
shouldn't have been around in the first place at the moment Bigwig was
explaining the escape plan to Hyzenthlay. Nelthilta is someone who
Hyzenthlay says (in the book) "couldn't be trusted on any account", so
it was rather silly for Bigwig to barge in and explain the escape plan
to everyone - which he did far too quickly in any case, though at least
we got to hear a small part of Hyzenthlay's poem.

Ah! I see we're back to the comforting surrounds of Whinge Corner. And
the biggest whinge of all concerns the appalling decision to remove
Blackavar's character entirely. His treatment at the hands of the
Owslafa[2] is central to the depiction of Efrafa as the terrible place
it is. Instead, we get a rather silly "court martial" scene in which
Bugloss (the "prisoner at the bar") is sentenced to death, another
change from the book (in which he's merely reduced to the ranks).

As with part one, several classic lines of dialogue were surgically
removed, the most glaring omission being Woundwort's climactic "dogs
aren't dangerous!" rant. And the little explanations of rabbit culture
were generally stilted ("may our legendary hero El-ahrairah go with
you"). Not to mention the continuing case of the odd pronunciations -
HyZANthlay?

Talking of whom, I said in my review of part one that she (with
Woundwort) was a vital character to the success or otherwise of this
programme. Unfortunately, as tends to happen in WD adaptations, her
vital role in organising the escape party was greatly downplayed, and
her Fiver-like second sight was ignored entirely. She also sounded
rather too helpless at times - this diminution of her importance was
reflected in the final credits, where all we got was "the does were
played by..." as though they were a sort of homogeneous mass. It's made
quite clear in the book that Hyzenthlay is a strong, capable doe who
can think on her own account.

Other minor irritations:

* Bigwig addresses Hazel as "Hazel-rah" when they meet Campion's Wide
Patrol.

* The train should have been a big steam one, but sounded more like a
small diesel - actually, it didn't sound like any sort of train if you
ask me...

* This adaptation has probably set an unwanted (by me, anyway) record:
becoming the first version ever to get through the entire story without
once using the best known word in Lapine: "tharn".

Overall, then, this second part was an improvement on the first half,
and there were several things to praise - General Woundwort, the Black
Rabbit and Nelthilta particularly. But it didn't really find its feet
until the very last scene of all, and so it still has to go down as a
missed opportunity.

[1] Bites or gashes deliberately in a particular part of the body for
identification purposes, usually (though not always) inflicted when
kittens.

[2] Owslafa means "Council Police" - a sinister lot. Blackavar had had
his ears ripped to shreds as punishment for an escape attempt, and was
shown "as an example to the others" every morning and evening. However,
once rescued by the Watership rabbits, his spirit returned and he
turned out to be a cut above the average.

--
The GPL Scrapyard: http://www.btinternet.com/~gplscrapyard

Bits'n'Bob-stones: http://www.geocities.com/daveb75
(inc. "Frithaes! An Introduction to Colloquial Lapine". Yes, really.)

oxymel of squill

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Oct 7, 2002, 5:06:00 AM10/7/02
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can't imagine why they're broadcasting this bollox - is it half term or
something??


"David Buttery" <gplscrapya...@yahoo.co.uk> wrote in message
news:Xns92A0773119F1g...@130.133.1.4...

Terrance

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Oct 7, 2002, 5:21:28 AM10/7/02
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I worked out why it sounds so bad to me.

Practically all actors seem to have White, Middle to Upper class, Southern
accents. It sounds like a discussion happening in an Islington bistro. Has
the rabbit warren been moved to an expensieve part of Islington?

Not a working class voice amongst them.

The range of accents, seems to be nill. That's why it sounds so dull and
predictable.

Also, the acting is crap. Everyone's so terribly nice, like a 1950's Public
Education film.

David Buttery

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Oct 7, 2002, 7:44:30 AM10/7/02
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"Terrance" <terrance...@hotmail.com> wrote on 07 Oct 2002:

> I worked out why it sounds so bad to me.
>
> Practically all actors seem to have White, Middle to Upper class,
> Southern accents. It sounds like a discussion happening in an
> Islington bistro.

<snip>

Er... you've done this post. So has oxymel of squill, though at least
you had the courtesy to snip.

David Buttery

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Oct 7, 2002, 7:45:17 AM10/7/02
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"oxymel of squill" <quis...@ntlworld.com> wrote on 07 Oct 2002:

> can't imagine why they're broadcasting this bollox - is it half
> term or something??

Look, I'm not going to get into a flamewar. So stop trying.

Steve Brooks

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Oct 8, 2002, 12:32:29 PM10/8/02
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"David Buttery" wrote
> "oxymel of squill" wrote

>
> > can't imagine why they're broadcasting this bollox - is it half
> > term or something??
>
> Look, I'm not going to get into a flamewar. So stop trying.

That's fighting talk! ;-)

--
SB


David Buttery

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Oct 8, 2002, 9:36:24 PM10/8/02
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"Steve Brooks" <IDontHave...@hotmail.com> wrote on 08 Oct 2002:

> That's fighting talk! ;-)

I'll think of a comeback when I've stopped laughing at the people on
the Guardian talkboards... (see bottom line of sig!)

--

Bits'n'Bob-stones: http://www.geocities.com/daveb75
(inc. "Frithaes! An Introduction to Colloquial Lapine". Yes, really.)

Hilarious discussion by people who take this site far too seriously:
http://talk.guardian.co.uk/WebX?1...@155.SueMaMSYRk8.2@.3ba75976/34

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