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The art of adaptation

“Literature is not easy but without Literature we are lost.” This message welcomes you into The International Antony Burgess Foundation, and being an English Literature student I wholeheartedly agree. It’s Saturday 13th October and I am attending an event by the Literature festival, “Bringing Literature to Life”. I have no expectations of this event, as awful as it sounds; I’ve never been to a Literature festival in Manchester, or anywhere really. The venue itself is tucked away in the heart of Manchester and seen as a “festival hub”, home to dozens of Antony Burgess’s literary creations and a cute cafe – I highly recommend the brownies, and seems perfect for the event I am attending.

“Bringing Literature to life” is jam packed full of established literary genius’s whom are novelists, television screen writers, radio writers, playwrights and scripted editors. Jeremy Dyson is the first to speak and with a Bafta under his belt and beautiful curly hair, he has my attention. He speaks of the rollercoaster ride of adapting Roald Dahl’s work to the stage, through gaining permission from Dahl’s relatives to the rehearsals of the production itself, and illustrates the challenges theatre imposes on adapting novels. Although seemingly stressful, he never hesitates to praise the final product and endlessly compliments the strong and inspiring cast that led to “an incredible experience”.

Jane Rogers then takes the stage, with numerous novels, award nominations and even has worked with the likes of Danny Boyle, she radiates success. Predominately now focusing on adaptations for radio and writing novels on the side, she tells us of her passion behind adaptations, “you have to love it as you live it”, and to need be more considerate of the original writers work, focusing on the structural elements as well as time. Next is Nick Stafford, whom has done various adaptations for television, radio and stage such as “War Horse”- which entails puppet wizardry and skilful acting and is still being performed on the West End today, which if you haven’t seen, you should. Nick tells us how the creation of the production itself was a work in progress, one that developed over time and numerous workshops to help the actors learn and establish interaction with the puppets themselves.  He goes on to describe the research he entailed to make the horse realistic which involved visiting stables and watching how horses move and react. Although he reflects that it was a long progress, we can see the immense pride he has from creating such a successful production.

Although all speakers have written from time to time their own work, they speak of and agree upon the struggles behind creating adaptations as your writing with an original text in mind. As well as the constraints of boring things like budget and time that also affect your work greatly they confided to us, however adaptations are a good way to relive and refresh a novel that you are passionate about, which I completely agree with. Their experience of the struggles in the industry, their fallbacks and constraints has taught me not to give up, whilst their success and overriding passion has inspired me to keep writing. I’d recommend the Literature festival to anyone as the professionals will inspire and educate you, or even to go to The International Antony Burgess Foundation for some tasty brownies.


Tags: adaptation, anthony burgess, literature festival, review

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