Orwell, Mantel and Gaiman to get new adaptations

Lots of news this week on the adaptation front, with popular work from George Orwell, Hilary Mantel and Neil Gaiman all making the leap from page to assorted other media.

First up, Orwell’s epochal Nineteen Eighty-Four is to receive a new BBC Radio 4 adaptation as part of the season The Real George Orwell. The dystopian classic will be dramatised in two parts starting on February 10th, with Christopher Ecclestone starring as Winston Smith alongside Tim Piggott-Smith and Pippa Nixon. Eccleston continues a seeming BBC tradition of casting former Doctor Whos as Smith, with second Doctor Patrick Troughton having taken the part in the corporation’s first radio adaptation of the book in 1965. The Orwell season also features Tamsin Greig and Toby Jones in a dramatisation of Animal Farm and new adaptations of Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia and Burmese Days.

Using source material of a more recent vintage, the Royal Shakespeare Company has revealed that it’s won the rights to stage theatrical productions of Hilary Mantel’s all-conquering Booker titans Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, which are also due to receive a BBC TV adaptation. The stage plays will be written by Mike Poulton, directed by John Herrin and performed at the Swan theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Gregory Doran, artistic director of the RSC, says that Mantel ‘got very excited about the Swan theatre and Stratford and the RSC and the great thing is that she’s so inspired by the idea of finding a theatrical language for her books that she’s promised to put all sort of bits in that she left out of the novels.’

Finally, more news on the long-mooted film version of Neil Gaiman’s 2008 fantasy for children who live in Edward Gorey illustrations, The Graveyard Book, and not necessarily good news at that: Director Henry Selick – the stop-motion animation virtuoso who previously proved a perfect fit for Gaiman’s sensibilities on Coraline and, as demonstrated by The Nightmare Before Christmas, one who knows how to appeal to creepy kids at that – has dropped out of the project to be replaced by Ron Howard. Howard – presumably roused from his slumber by word of a new Dan Brown novel he can adapt – certainly has a solid commercial track record and Oscar nominations to spare, but fans of The Graveyard Book are no doubt shuddering at the memory of his shrill, gaudy 2000 desecration of Dr. Seuss’ beloved How the Grinch Stole Christmas. They’ll be afraid, but not the good kind that Gaiman intended.