A new play adaptation of the Isle of Man’s most famous novel, The Manxman by Hall Caine, will be aired on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday (November 19).
Following its publication in 1894, Manx national poet and Caine’s friend T.E. Brown said: ‘There is not a Manx proverb, a Manx anecdote, a Manx jest, a Manx situation, which will not be found in The Manxman. All Manx men are in it, all Manx women.’
That certainly holds true for the Made in Manchester production of Catherine Harvey’s adaptation, directed by Iain Mackness.
It boasts a cast that features many Manx actors, and used island recording locations and entirely Manx music.
Annie Kissack, who both plays the part of Grannie Cregeen and took on the role of production adviser, told Island Life she was excited to be involved in the play: ‘I realise that The Manxman offered the opportunity for Manx culture to be heard by a wide audience, albeit within a fictional context.’
Annie’s role as production adviser saw her being involved with casting, reading through versions of the script to point out obvious anomalies, looking over the musical references and helping some of the cast with a Manx accent and pronunciation of surnames and place names.
‘I took both 500-plus page book and Catherine’s much, much shorter play script away with me on holiday to Croatia, read solidly and made notes for a day and a half,’ she said.
Catherine’s adaptation focuses on the heart of the novel - the love triangle between Kate Cregeen (Evie Killip), Philip Christian (Tom Ward-Thomas) and Pete Quilliam (Ben Karran).
The parts of the young Philip, Pete, Kate and Ross were given to former Bunscoill Ghaelgagh pupils, Rafferty McKenna, Finn Franklin, Aalish Kilgallon and Ned Hampton. Annie said: ‘They did very well especially when recording outside between background distractions and road noise.’
Bunscoill teacher Aalin Clague played Aunty Nan and her whole class helped record a school playground scene.
Rakie Ayola played Shennaghee the storyteller, Stephen Bent took on Caesar Cregeen and Peter Christian of Ballawhaine, and Will de Renzy-Martin had the parts of Ross Christian, Doctor, Parson and Governor.
Other parts were played by Phil Gawne, John Dog Callister, Winnie Callister, Bill Corlett, Richard Corlett, Greg Joughin, Chris Sheard and Chloe Woolley.
As well as in the island, recordings took place in a studio in Manchester and remotely in Cardiff.
Annie said: ‘It’s a very emotional play and a lot of crying to order was required!
‘The other side of which is a lot of compressed laughter, so we did have fun.’
Annie called on her choir Caarjyn Cooidjagh and other friends to go to The Albert, in Port St Mary, to work on the crowd scenes; singers, fiddlers, whistlers, shouters, brawlers and dancers.
‘There is a lot of music in this production, hopefully authentic and from the era,’ she said. ‘Some recorded at the pub, some at Maughold Church, referenced in the novel, some taken from existing recordings of Manx songs and tunes.
David Kilgallon was recorded in Maughold Church playing the organ, to be authentic to the sound of the play.
Kiaull Manninagh, Phynnoderee, Cairistiona Dougherty, Skeeal and The Albert Players all feature in the production.
Culture Vannin was also involved, helping with venues, contacts, music, fact checking and advice on some of the Manx elements in the script.
Annie said: ‘I’m hoping people will enjoy the play while realising this is a fairly fictional island being portrayed and we don’t all go round making such a complicated mess of our lives as Kate, Philip and Pete did... or do we? Keep the tissues to hand.’
The Manxman will be aired on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 3pm. It will be available online shortly after broadcast.