Radio Review: The Eustace Diamonds, Radio 4

“If only money were not an obstacle”

With fortuitous timing, given how much Trollope I’d read and watched at the tail end of 2012, came this radio adaptation, by noted author Rose Tremain, of The Eustace Diamonds. The manipulative Lizzie Eustace claims ownership of a marvellous diamond necklace, a family heirloom which she claims was given to her by her late husband Florian. As the Eustaces close rank in an attempt to reclaim what they believe should not have left the family, Lizzie looks to find another situation to keep her in the lifestyle she has become accustomed to but finds that the case of these precious stones follows her and blights all her attempts to form new attachments.

We’re 2 episodes in, with one left, and I am really enjoying it this far. Whether the novel is simpler in terms of its dramatis personae or if Tremain has simplified the plot in her adaptation (I’ve not read the novel myself…), it feels like the easiest of Trollope’s stories to follow of the three I have encountered recently, yet it doesn’t suffer for it. Pippa Nixon’s Lizzie is a wonderfully ambiguous figure, an inveterate fibber and yet one doesn’t want to quite dismiss her as a complete liar and as she works her way through the smitten men in her life – Joseph Kloska’s Frank and Jamie Glover’s Lord Fawn, and later Adrian Scarborough’s cheeky Lord George – one can imagine exactly why they fall for her charms.

Again, the themes of Victorian hypocrisy that Trollope likes rear their ugly head again as unlikely matches are made and frowned upon, matters of honour become huge stumbling blocks in lives, loves and friendship and the maintenance of propriety in the face of increasing scandal is becoming ever more important as it looks less and less likely that Lizzie will be able to keep her grasping hands on the diamonds.

Stella Gonet – who possess one of the loveliest voices to listen to – is excellent as Lady Fawn, constantly trying to manage the affairs of the lovers around her; and there’s smaller but equally great work from Lydia Leonard as the forthright Lucinda, Richenda Carey as an outraged aristo, Sam Kelly as a weaselly jeweller and Malcolm Sinclair as the starched family lawyer Camperdown. Lucinda Mason Brown’s original music which features much harp and cello is beautifully written and cleverly utilised to work with the episodic nature of the production and all in all, it has made a very successful piece of drama to which to listen.

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