An adaptation of the Barbara Pym Booker nominated novel – November 2015
An Arts Council England funded research and development project on this beautiful and moving novel Booker nominated novel by Barbara Pym.
With an adaptation planned by Amanda Whittington and with generous support from York Theatre Royal this three week period of writing and workshop helped us to discove the form this challenging novel will take.
Quartet in Autumn tells the story of two men and two women as they approach retirement, and enter it. It explores people who have given their lives up unquestionably to work and now when the time comes they are faced with the emptiness of their futures. It is about missed love affairs, regrets, being overlooked, sensibilities and above all the sense that none of them has anyone who depends on them.
It is a dark and funny novel filled with the brilliant wit that Barbara Pym is renowned for. It is populated by complex, real characters who we empathise with and who we yearn to succeed, to break-out of their self-censorship and let themselves live. The book is ultimately uplifting and positive.
The characters are not stereotypical ‘old’ people, but characters written by an author who understood age, loneliness, the desires and dreams of people, young and old.
It is a deeply moving book which reminds all of us to live our lives to the full, to grab the opportunities so we never have to live with regrets.
What the plan is
I have long wanted to produce a stage version of this story.
This 1977 novel has a strong resonance today. In a world where the elderly are becoming more marginalised, as our worth is weighed by what we do and earn, when our usefulness is something that can be disposed of in favour of the ‘new’ this story finds hope in people finding one another amongst those they have overlooked and misread.
The novel has a natural theatricality; the characters are bold, vulnerable and honest. They have real, complex lives, written from first hand knowledge by a master of observation.
Pym’s distinctive narrative voice runs deep through this novel and is vital to any adaptation. This R&D process was needed to generate some script ideas and work practically with actors in the rehearsal room to discover ways to imaginatively transpose that voice from the novel to the stage without the need of a narrator. The outcome of this has been a draft of the first fifteen minutes of the play and proposal of how my vision for a full production may look.
Funding this initial stage
This project has been funded from a number of sources. We have received funding from Arts Council England, money raised through crowd funding and York Theatre Royal.
We also received in kind support from Nottingham Playhouse.
Produced with generous support from York Theatre Royal