Friday, June 10, 2011

Ngaio Marsh doco-drama to screen this Sunday!

Several months ago (last year), I shared a scoop about an upcoming documentary on the life of Ngaio Marsh. Then in February I shared more details about Ngaio Marsh - Crime Queen, which was due to screen on TV ONE as part of its Artsville series, that month. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, that screening was postponed (the doco-drama was scheduled for a midnight timeslot - viewer feedback/outrage resulted in a delay in screening until later in 2011, at a more suitable timeslot).

Now those of us in New Zealand can finally get to see the documentary this weekend, with Ngaio Marsh - Crime Queen due to be broadcast on TV ONE this Sunday, 12 June, at the somewhat more reasonable time of 10.20pm. It should also be available 'On Demand' from the TVNZ website following the screening (I'm not sure whether overseas Internet users can watch or not, given regional licensing etc).

I'm looking forward to seeing this, as it seems like a fascinating production that has been put together - acclaimed actor Peter Elliott (Until Proven Innocent, Heavenly Creatures, Shortland Street) plays Inspector Alleyn, the urbane English gentleman police detective who stars in all thirty two of Marsh's internationally renowned best selling detective novels, who comes to life to go in search of his creator, Ngaio Marsh. Elliott (pictured above, as Alleyn) says of his role, "I found playing Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn one of the most peculiar experiences of my life. It was like shipping coals to Newcastle, interviewing Eton and Oxford educated personalities in England as a private school, University educated, upper class character. It was a phenomenon both very odd and most enjoyable, this process of sleuthing around."
Elliott concludes, "Ngaio Marsh has joined the company of people to whom I am very grateful. She came to feel like a compatriot, a parent, a friend. I came to feel like one of Ngaio's Boys."

Producer/director Aileen O'Sullivan says of making the show and learning more about Marsh: "It is a documentary I have wanted to make for several years and found the figure we discovered even more complex, more extraordinary and more engaging than I'd originally suspected." Sullivan discovered Marsh fans exist in all corners of the globe, she says "we shot in Christchurch, New Zealand and in England, and in both countries were given tremendous support by crime aficionados and the friends and colleagues who treasure and respect Ngaio Marsh's work. It was strange to realise that while Dame Ngaio Marsh has been well celebrated here as a theatre director, the huge reputation she enjoys internationally as one of the all time Queens of Crime Fiction, has never been fully appreciated in New Zealand."

Amen to that, Aileen. It's amazing how much Ngaio is overlooked and under-appreciated amongst our literary heritage, although hopefully that is changing with the likes of Dr Jo Drayton's excellent recent biography, this doco-drama, and the creation of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

Artsville: Ngaio Marsh - Crime Queen takes us behind the scenes and behind the public persona of this most private woman. We meet the people who were intimate and important in her life. There are her acting protégés from her days directing student theatre at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. It is like a cast party after one of her Shakespearian productions: Elric Hooper, Jonathan Elsom, David Hindon, Gerald Lascelles, Brian Bell and Annette Facer are all interviewed. These, were her student ‘players’ whom she referred to as ‘sons and daughters of the house’, because they were not just actors, they were her family. They share both their reverent and irreverent memories of Ngaio – and in so doing bring her alive for a new audience. Their stories are compelling reminders that there is a fascinating history here at risk of being lost.

You can read some more information about the involvement of people in Canterbury, who knew Ngaio Marsh from her theatre days in Canterbury, here.

Elliott as Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn and biographer Jo Drayton walk the streets of Knightsbridge in England, Ngaio stayed with actor Jonathan Elsom and the Rhodes family that she adored, and we see the flat where she wrote her first crime detective novel A Man Lay Dead (1934). Alleyn is teased by 'glimpses' of 'Ngaio' during his investigation as she walks down a London street, sits reflecting in a café or slips into a radio studio for a recording. 'Ngaio' is adept at luring her Detective on, only to evade and escape revelation. This is a cat and mouse game played by two professionals. Who is stalking who and why? Does Ngaio want to be discovered, to finally reveal who she is behind her masks?

Artsville: Ngaio Marsh - Crime Queen, TV ONE, 10.20pm, Sunday 12 June 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment