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Poldark

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On the face of it Ralph Bates and Usain Bolt have little in common.

For one thing Ralph died over 25 years ago and Usain is about to defend his Olympic titles at 100 and 200 metres.

So why on earth are they sharing the title of this post?

Ralph loved sport–but as a spectator. Together we once attended a Barry Macguigan boxing match at Queens Park Rangers Football ground and as a mover I never saw Ralph “bolt”. To the contrary, he swayed elegantly.

Well, he was half-French! The eminent scientist, Louis Pasteur, was his great-great uncle.

It’s a question of attitude.

The interview below reminded me of dear Ralph and his insouciant nature.

With his third Olympic Games coming up, Usain Bolt a.k.a. the Human Arrow–double 100 and 200 metros champion–says the key for him (about performing) is to actively avoid thinking too much.

I’m in good shape and I’ve done all the hard work in training I know I’ll be good.

“When you’re waiting there, minutes before the race starts, it’s easy to end up staring down the track and getting caught up in it all; but when you know you’re in good shape then the performances come. Everything clicks and you just run the perfect race. You don’t need to think too hard, just execute–you are focused and ready to perform.”

As I read this, my mind switched locations to an over-lit corridor outside a BBCTV studio in Birmingham, where we were about to record an episode of the second series of Poldark–circa May 1977.

I was pacing up and down, “actively thinking too much“, worried about the next two-and-half hours of filming.

Ralph, dressed as the suave George Warleggan, spotted me anxiously pacing and quietly tapped me on the shoulder.

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“It’s only a play, Robin!”.

He might have added:

“You know you ‘re in good shape, you’ve done all the hard work in rehearsal and you know you’ll be good. You are focused and ready to perform!”

That’s what he meant with his reassuring pat on my shoulder.

Yesterday I learned that the Reverend Dr. Halse–that admirable, upstanding, pillar of the Cornish establishment–would be making another appearance in the third series of Poldark. which starts filming next month.

I’ll try to remember– It’s only a Play!

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An unusually insouciant Dr Halse

 

 

 

 

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Balls and the Reverend Dr Halse make an odd conjunction–yet there it is; the invitation, propped up on the mantle for all the world to see.

The Reverend Dr Halse… 

(’twas but he, Mrs Halse having died of shock several years previously, while attending the first assizes of the newly elevated Reverend and seeing him in his new judicial wig).

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George and Carey Warleggan respectfully request the honour of your presence at  the Warleggan Ball, Tuesday the…. “

One doesn’t easily imagine the grumpy bench sitter tripping off to dance the light fantastic with the crème de la crème of Cornish society!

Rather one pictures him, as he is now, deep in his throne-like armchair at Halse Hall, a beautifully crafted balloon brandy glass cupped in his mean and boney hands, re-running recent trials over which he presided–chiding himself on his leniency.

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Indeed, the idea of gracing Hugh Bodruggan’s pile with his presence at the opening Hunt Ball of the season, sends such self-righteous shiver down his spine, he nearly spills the vintage brandy.

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The stories of debauchery!

Sir Hugh slavering over young innocent girls. How is one supposed to maintain standards of decency and order when those that should know better are too drunk to give a damn?

(“Good subject for my sermon, Sunday next.”)

The Warleggans, however–upstarts though they certainly are–(nouveax riche as the French so aptly call them) are a different kettle of fish.

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They are proving worthy additions to Society–and they know how to throw a party.

The Warleggan Ball is now the event of the year in the social calendar of Cornwall.

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A not-to-be missed, must-be-seen-at festivity–with a table of delicacies unrivalled in the whole of the South West.

Fine card room to boot!

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It is rumored that an invitation has been sent to that renegade Ross Poldark (traitor to his class!) and his wife.

Married his parlour maid indeed!

It’s against the natural order. It offends! It is dangerous!

“I have a duty to see for myself this parvenue, this sally-come-lately, this abomination–what’s her name? Demelza?”

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“I shall go!”

This decision taken, he snoozes off, letting the brandy glass slip through his fingers and upend itself, spilling the precious liquid into his lap–soaking his trousers to the flesh!

You too are invited to attend the Warleggan Ball in the 6th episode of POLDARK–Sunday (26th July) on PBS’ Masterpiece!

A barely audible mumble from the armchair:

“Evensong would be a wiser choice.”

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AT LAST!

Yesterday the audio version of Making Poldark became available for download via Audible, Amazon or iTunes.

http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_mn_mt_ano_tseft__galileo?advsearchKeywords=Making+Poldark&x=0&y=0

 

Below, I’m re-posting my account of recording it way back in January.

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Just back from UK where I recorded my memoir of Poldark as an audio book–with an extra chapter about taking part in the new BBC/Mammoth version–40 years after doing the original!

 

Two days in a small, soundproof booth in a basement recording studio in Hove in Sussex, while the wind and the rain raged above ground.

I was fortunate to have three helpmates in the studio running the show–and keeping my nose to the microphone.

Chris Daniels, sound engineer, owns the studio and is a member of that fraternity of calm console operators who are never flustered.

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They have seen it all before–and behave as though they read the first verse of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, IF, before sitting down to work:

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And you’ll be make a Sound Engineer, my son!
(With apologies to Mr. Kipling.)
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My old friend, Constantine de Goguel Toulouse-Lautrec–his grandmother was in St. Petersburg in the October Revolution of 1917 and survived–sat in the producer’s seat and guided a rusty performer through the sessions with grace and years of experience.
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He’s a fine actor and an experienced dialogue coach for movies.
He also runs Spoken Ink–subtitled “The Home of Short Audio“–well worth checking out.
Meredith made up the triumvirate as back-up producer keeping a beady eye on the script and an ear out for things that could be better (like the American pronunciation of “Potomac”!).
Her occasional ripple of involuntary laughter was a morale boost for The Man in the Sound Proof Booth!
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The project is in post production now. When complete, we’ll announce it here.

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I’m speculating, of course, but with my insider knowledge I would guess that the Reverend Dr Halse–magistrate at law–looks forward to every quarter sessions with beady anticipation.

I picture him, sitting in splendid isolation, at the breakfast table in the hotel in Bodmin Town in the county of Cornwall on the morning of the first day of the Assizes, involuntarily rubbing his hands together at the prospect of another opportunity to punish wrong-doing.

“And punish severely!” he’s muttering under his breath.

“Order must be maintained if  “Society” is to survive and the status quo maintained.”

“Some would consider these harsh decisions, but a court of law is no place for sentiment–the law is the Law. We must make an example of those who flout it for their own gain and expect to get off lightly.”

No” and “No, again!”

Without thinking he brings his fist down on the breakfast table with the force of a gavel (a favorite gesture of his in court) sending his coffee cup flying out of its saucer, spilling its contents over the pretty tablecloth, threatening his newly-pressed gaiters.

The boiled egg–sitting so smugly in its eggcup (three-and-a-half minutes precisely) catapults from its moorings and lands its neatly-opened side on his crisply-ironed clerical necktie, spilling yellow yoke down its considerable length.

An expletive seldom heard in polite society–let alone from the lips of this earnestly reverend gentleman–explodes into the air, stunning the animated company into silence.

No-one moves a limb as the Reverend Dr Halse rises from his chair, his normally chalk white face a sweaty ruby red and holding his napkin close to his chest, he strides from the room.

It is destined to be an uncomfortable session for any unfortunate defendant later this morning!

You can see what happened next tonight on PBS’s Masterpiece–episode three of POLDARK.

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“Grumpy” doesn’t cover it!

 

 

 

 

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The spectacularly staged cliffhanger ending of last night’s 8th and final episode of the First Season of the new Poldark left us and poor Demelza on the edge of the abyss–literally.

The audience with a 12-month wait and Demelza looking at a precipice of worry and uncertainty.

WOW!

Poldark‘s explosion into the nation’s consciousness in the UK is phenomenal. (I’m enjoying riding on the coattails, albeit with a feeling of déjà vu!).

Poldark is referenced daily in the British zeitgeist–in cartoons, radio, TV print and online–sometimes  with a political twist and even academic papers discussing its historical context.

The ancient art of scything is experiencing a re-examination; Colin Firth is getting some free publicity and the British Chancellor George Osborne—at the height of an unpredictable election campaign—finds time to be a fan!

It seems the time was right for Captain Ross Poldark to gallop back into the national psyche and turn up the temperature on Sunday nights.

Aidan Turner has done just that with nobs on–if you’ll pardon the expression, supported by a wonderful ensemble.

His passionate performance as Ross is at the epicenter of the storm over Poldark and it’s exciting to watch him take the thing by the scruff of the neck–literally in the case of the wretched Matthew Sansom. (Good riddance, I say, he was intolerably impertinent to Rev. Dr. Halse at the card table).

Spoiler alert–skip the next paragraph if you have not yet seen all of the first new series.

Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza–losing her first born and husband at a stroke–matches Aidan, playing Demelza with an honesty that anchors the piece firmly within the truth-telling universe created in the novels by Winston Graham.

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She and Aidan have established the emotional heart of the piece–and it’s that that attracts the audience back each week.

As Meredith has just said, it is certainly not my wigs!

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Surfing the net for a bit of Poldark news this morning (I’ve become a groupie!) I chanced on a series of wonderful photos, many of which I had never seen before.

They were taken during the filming of the original series by a gifted young photographer, Ian Barnes, who was just starting out in his career.

Here’s his story and the photo slide show, published today by the Western Morning News: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Unique-record-set-original-BBC-cast-Poldark/story-26324743-detail/story.htmlEbony the Horse

The slide show reminded me that  I had written the story of two of the photos depicted in my memoir Making Poldark. [Also available on Amazon.com]

 My steed for the second series, Ebony, was supplied by the wonderful horsemaster, Ben Ford  (the back of his head is visible in the photo below).

I had more riding to do in the second series, so Ebony and I saw a lot of each other. She never threw me like Dennis (my mount in the first series, an ex-Steeple chaser), but I’m sure she knew she had a novice on board.

Our most difficult day was the first shot of the second series—Ross Poldark‘s return from Holland.

In real life, I had been in London the previous day to see my then girlfriend play Cordelia at the opening night of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear, which had transferred from Stratford to the Aldwych Theatre. After the performance I caught the overnight train to Cornwall.

So I was there, fresh as a wilted daisy, at 8am on the beach at Caerhays ready to film. It was pouring with rain.

Ebony and I waited until 3:30 in the afternoon before we could even get on the beach. Neither of us was in very good shape by then. The wind was blowing the sea into a frenzy,  and I had great difficulty in keeping my over-large hat on my head. Screenshot 2015-04-17 14.33.12 Ebony, quite sensibly, was none too keen on the conditions. She could see the waves out of the corner of her eye and thought they were coming for her.

With difficulty, trying to control my hat, my flowing cloak and the reins, I managed to get her facing the right way. The camera was mounted on the roof of a Land Rover and we were supposed to follow it at full gallop across the beach. Screenshot 2015-04-17 14.37.37 It should have been an invigorating experience. Instead it was a nightmare.

Ebony HATED the sound of the Land Rover and decided the SAFEST place was her horsebox—so that’s where we headed.

We passed the Land Rover with ease and I managed to stop her only a few feet from the end of the beach. Exhausted I fell off into a puddle!

I remounted. (Well, I was the hero!)

Ben, experienced in such things, placed a sister equine on the seaward side of the Land Rover track, hoping Ebony would run towards her. We tried again and Ebony rejoined her friend rather more quickly than the cameraman anticipated.

By this time, I was losing confidence and my fingers were losing their grip.

We tried once more. Ebony did an impromptu gavotte, crisscrossing the Land Rover, and then another mad gallop.

I decided she’d won the day and walked back to the coach.

Two days later we had a perfect sunny day and managed the shot in one take.

I think Ebony had worked in television before.

Poldark filming seems to attract characterful beasts. Aidan Turner’s steed Seamus (Darkie in the series and Irish, like Aidan) is enjoying his new found fame!

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