How Sir @IanMcKellen was converted to #ParadiseLost by @BBCRadio4 adaptation: https://t.co/f2ZiEZlcHC pic.twitter.com/G9MebGlU7Z— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) March 6, 2018
Saturday, 24 March 2018
In this @BBCRadioDrama adaptation by the poet Michael Symmons Roberts, Ian McKellen plays Milton narrating his greatest poem in English, about the fall of man in Eden. Scenes of confrontations between the various dark angels as they look bitterly upon humanity (“like to us but lesser in power and excellence”) all take place to the sounds of bubbling lava and distant screams, as though this were an aural Hieronymus Bosch, with unspeakable creatures wearing plague doctor masks lurching semi-broiled from steaming cauldrons.
McKellen sounds uber-Gandalf, especially when relishing such phrases as “of man’s first disobedience” and “the ways of mortals”. There’s even a confrontation with some dire creature heard panting sinisterly as McKellen notes, “black it stood as night, fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell”, which cannot but call to mind his Gandalf facing down the fiery Balrog in Tolkien’s Mines of Moria (“the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent”).
But best is Simon Russell Beale as Satan – so rational, so persuasive. Perfectly Miltonic. “He may sound like a very progressive and likeable educator,” warned the theologian René Girard, succinctly, of Satan in Paradise Lost. SRB approaches the part absolutely like this and is disorientatingly brilliant, especially in the way he implies, with every sigh and nuance, that if we were only to submit to his way we would feel liberated. Free from the burden of experience.