Gormenghast: Ep.3

“Tomorrow is also a day.”

Mervyn Peake

Titus is seven. Since his father’s mysterious disappearance six years earlier, he’s been the official Earl of Gormenghast, but he’s beginning to bridle at his stifled, constricted life in the castle and to wonder if there isn’t anything more. And, of course, this brings him up against the dastardly Steerpike, who is still hellbent on manoeuvring his way to the top, whatever the cost.

My feelings about this episode are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, it’s here we first meet the crowd of Professors who teach Titus all that he knows, and these scenes are wonderfully humorous and light, with Stephen Fry as Bellgrove carrying off the bemused kindness of the out-of-touch teacher with aplomb. There’s a nice contrast, too, between the sepia-tinted comedy of those scenes and the brutal harshness of Steerpike’s rise to power. (Although the schoolboys’ game with the plank and the tree looks considerably less fun than it sounded in the book.)

Sadly, however, Cameron Powrie as seven-year-old Titus is less than compelling (although it has to be said that child actors are never terrific – you only have to look at Harry Potter to see that), and it all begins to feel a bit rushed and underdeveloped, as though the producers are trying to squeeze too much into one hour. Still, a decent episode which sets the conclusion up nicely.


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