The title here is a sort of provocation to self. There are a number of forms or degrees of adaptation when it comes to solving the problem of making an art object jump species.  There is the most obvious, but not necessarily easiest form where one simply picks up the whole damn thing and hopes that all moving parts still move when you plonk it back down. But this isn’t always the best way, and probably is actually rarely the best way.  Just as the concept of mimesis is not simple imitation – ie art as an inferior copy of real life – so too adaptation is not just a case of putting prose into pictures for the lazy and illiterate masses.  It is about creating an object which stands or falls on its own merits and addresses the problems thrown up by the material in the best way for the chosen form.

So, the provocation here is to take my own original material and approach it very differently. The exigencies of the radio play of Under the Forest were:

1. to write a work that was portable and quick to produce

2. to create something fairly short

3. to explore the twin concepts of memory and cultural amnesia

The play uses twin narrators to give different versions of the past.  In The Land of the Lyrebird the various ‘recollections and experiences’ add up to a consistent narrative pattern of struggle, possible failure, ultimate trial and finally elegy of the vanquished foe. Paul Carter sees the hand of a skilled editor guiding this consistency of voice.  In the radio play this consistency fractures between the two characters, separated by time and location now, as they look back. The intended effect is an intimate exploration of memory.

So, now to the screenplay.  I’ve done memory and the intimate voice.  Now I want a far less mediated experience of the story. Before I made this decision I wrote a couple of scenes bringing the main characters together many years later – whereas in the radio they are never together (see UtF the Moofie). Now my thinking is to ditch the memory stuff and go straight to the beginning of the the story – or at lease where we enter. Essentially, 10 year old John finds himself leading a pack horse as he and his fragile older brother and their violent father plunge into the forest – a far more visceral opening.  We’ll see…


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One Response to On Adaptation: Writing the Film of the Radio Play

  1. Josephine says:

    I’m intrigued to see how your thoughts are moving here, Patrick – particularly your desire to do something different in the screenplay by ditching the memory stuff and taking us to the beginning of the story. To me, the remembered scenes which appear in the radio play seem as if they could translate to film in a stronger way than placing us directly at the scene. I think this has something to do with actually ‘meeting’ Caleb in the beginnings of your screenplay. Having not met him in this way in the radio play gave him a more haunting quality, I think, and in that sense he had a resonance that his ‘real’ body seems to suddenly limit. But I wonder if this is a resistance created by my familiarity with the radio play, and the now being attached to the series of images that formed for me as I listened to the finished product? For me, the radio play, due to the images created via memory, due to the way the dialogue often reads poetically and due to the nature of its sounds, seems to seep quite naturally and evocatively into the territory of film. I guess I seem like an advocate for the kind of mimesis you are cautioning against, but if the object of the radio play is a blurring or even a mutation of its species in the first place, then maybe it doesn’t have too far to jump? I don’t see the adaptation process in this case as a case of putting prose into pictures for the lazy and illiterate.

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