I am, it has to be said, a huge fan of Hilary Mantel's books Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. I think I have previously written about going to see the stage plays in fact.
I was dreadfully nervous about the current television adaptation because so often, such things just do not live up to your expectations. We all form such personal pictures in our heads when we read books that it is virtually impossible to please everyone with television or stage representations. The best series are, in my humble opinion, the ones which best capture the essence of a book.
This morning, it has been reported that the Wolf Hall film-makers spent over £20,000 on candles. A lot of the reporting since the series started has focussed on the low level lighting used. People complaining that they can't see the "action" and so on.
Whilst agreeing that this is a large amount to spend on candles (a (candle)stick of which the Daily Mail will make good use, to beat the BBC!), I absolutely love the atmosphere created by the candles. Finally, I thought after the first episode, we can see how it must have been. It really was possible to be lurking in corners and hiding in rooms where people were exchanging confidences. It was dark!
There is a tendency to look back at history - whether our own family's or the state's - through the view which we have today. Perpetual light whenever and wherever we want it. We find it impossible to believe that people could have lived in a world where you gathered around candles every evening or just went to bed. I lived in a Victorian house until recently. I never did truly experience it as it's original owners did though. Even turning off the lights would not give me a Victorian view of the house - there was a dirty great street lamp of the worst orange sort right outside the house! I was forced to get blackout blinds to get any quality of sleep!
Only a power cut can give any kind of authenticity and even those are often limited to one row of houses these days. A city is never truly dark - car lights, torches, phones, emergency generators, you name it, we can combat the dark with it. What are we afraid of?
I have ancestors who drove trains across India, who guarded Napoleon on St Helena, who did actually trade in the City of London in the 1600's, who worked in service at great houses. They truly lived in the dark. The light from a roaring steam engine, firelight, flaming torches, carrying candles for their master to make his way to bed. That was it. Blips of light in a dark landscape.
Wolf Hall shows us how it felt to live in Tudor times. It is not just a piece of "action". It would be fascinating to see more plays and adaptations done in the same way. Talk about shedding a whole new light on the subject....