From the studio to the morgue and back again
Ed Guiney, executive producer for Element Pictures, says the BBC’s involvement gave the project considerable heft: “Having the BBC behind you means you can attract writers such as Andrew Davies, who is adapting Christine Falls and The Silver Swan, and Conor McPherson, who is adapting Elegy for April.”
All three films will be directed by John Alexander (White Heat, Exiles and Zen) while Davies’s TV credits include a long list of enormously successful TV adaptations of classic and much-loved books, including Little Dorrit, Tipping the Velvet, Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch. “I’m very happy to have Andrew Davies do the first two, he’s one of the very best script-writers at work now,” said Banville. “Conor McPherson is another marvellous catch for the series.”
Location scouting for the filming has begun and the novels name-check several streets and neighbourhoods around Dublin, from Stoneybatter to Merrion Square. “The novels are set in the 1950s but so many of the locations are still there and mostly unchanged,” says Guiney. Casting is on-going – Phoebe, Quirke’s daughter and a key figure in all the novels, has yet to be named. Each 90-minute episode takes around five weeks to film and Quirke will be broadcast on BBC1 in 2013.
BBC drama is currently mining a rich seam of adaptations of best-selling novels. Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End is on air, adapted in five parts by Tom Stoppard. War of the Roses, a very lavish-looking series based on Philippa Gregory’s historical novels, is in the works, as is an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel Wolf Hall, along with its follow-up, Bring Up the Bodies. A drama based on The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson has been commissioned for broadcast on ITV.
Banville is enjoying the quirky symmetry of the imminent appearance of his Benjamin Black novels on the small screen. “Quirke sprang fully armed, one might say, out of the television screen, and I like the irony that now the series is going back from the novel form on to television.”