Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Big Series

I have seen the trailer for the first of the BBC's new drama-documentary series Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire. This first episode deals with Nero, and Michael Sheen has been cast in the role. I note that this is one of those occasions, which are not too common, when someone close to the right age has been cast. Nero was thirty when he died, but looked older; Sheen is thirty-seven, but looks younger. Often someone significantly older is cast - Derek Francis was forty-one in the Romans story in Doctor Who, Patrick Cargill was fifty-two in Up Pompeii! (mind you, that's set in AD 79, so Nero would have been forty-two, had he been alive then - which he wasn't - Up Pompeii!'s no particular respecter of chronology), and Christopher Biggins twenty-eight when playing Nero at sixteen. On the other hand, two of the most famous portrayals are exceptions; Peter Ustinov was thirty-one when he made Quo Vadis?, and Charles Laughton thirty-two in Sign of the Cross. I note without comment that Sheen can also be seen on our screens playing Tony Blair in The Queen.

Fifty years ago this story would have been written with a clear reference to Aristophanes' Lysistrata (which was picked up by both the immediate sources that brought it to my attention). Sadly, this either is thought too highbrow for the readerships concerned, or the journalists themselves don't know - so kudos to The Washington Post.

2 comments:

Dunstan said...

Have you by chance come across Byzantium!, a Doctor Who novelization written in 2001 by a certain Keith Topping? Paste this for a precis:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/books/byzantium/

It's impressively awful, with penny-dreadful Romans, about 9 out of 10 attempts at Latin badly mangled, and tons of mock-historical stiltedness in the conversations. And there are characters with names like Agrinella, Actium and Fabulous. Still, it's interesting to find the Doctor and his companions mingling with Early Christians and bored colonial Romans.

Tony Keen said...

I have a copy on my shelves, but I've never actually read it.