This winter, I hope The Dark Is Rising will find new audiences around the world. For, working with the actor, director and theatre-maker Simon McBurney, and supported by Complicité (the theatre company that Simon co-founded) I’ve spent the past year adapting The Dark Is Rising as an audio drama. It will be broadcast first on BBC World Service in 12 episodes, beginning on 20 December, with an episode following each day, such that the broadcasts correspond to the “real time” of the novel’s own unfolding across the solstice, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
An early edition of The Dark Is Rising.
Early in the process of adaptation, in discussion with Complicité’s brilliant producer Tim Bell, Simon and I resolved on four creative principles. First, that we would honour Cooper’s novel and its 50-year-long power of enchantment. Second, that we’d make something far more ambitious than “just” an abridged reading of the book; third, that the supernatural elements of the production would be recorded binaurally, to immerse the listener acoustically; and fourth, that we’d draw out the transnational nature of Cooper’s vision. For the “Old Ones” – the warriors of the Light – are drawn from every country and background, and it is a Jamaican Old One who gives to Will an object of immense power, without which his quest cannot be completed. It feels right to us that this adaptation will be broadcast on the World Service, and heard in nearly 90 countries.
Working with Simon on the adaptation was inspirational; a 12-month masterclass in the skills of narrative pacing, dramatic tempo and creative perfectionism. As well as co-adapting the text with me, Simon also directed the performances and voiced the narrator. Complicité slowly gathered a superb cast including Toby Jones, Harriet Walter, Miles Yekinni as Herne, Natasha K Stone as the “devil-girl” Maggie Barnes, and 13-year-old Noah Alexander, who plays young Will Stanton.see the guardian article by Robert Macfarlane, Midwinter magic: Robert Macfarlane on the enduring power of The Dark Is Rising