September 21, 2008

Something for the Weekend

By Steve Pratt

Poirot: Cat Among The Pigeons (tomorrow, ITV1, 9pm)

Arena: The Hunt For Moby Dick (tonight, BBC2, 10.30pm)

MARK Gatiss has always loved Agatha Christie books and read the books religiously as a child. So the County Durham-born actor and writer was delighted when asked to adapt one of her Hercule Poirot novels for ITV1.

Surprising, really, that he found time to fit it in his crowded schedule. Since finding fame as one of The League of Gentlemen comedy outfit, he?s taken a number of acting roles and written several novels. No wonder coproducer Damien Timmer describes Gatiss as ?a one man phenomenon ? one of the most gifted and sought-after writers working today?.

He?s very happy with the result. ?It?s a huge coup to persuade him to adapt one of Agatha Christie?s best loved Poirot novels and he?s come up with something very special ? modern and bold and yet quintessentially Poirot, ? he comments.

For his part, Gatiss says: ?When I was asked if I might consider adapting one, it was like pushing on an open door.

It?s been a sheer delight and I know that, in David?s exceptional Poirot, my script is in the very best hands. ? David is, of course, David Suchet, the actor who?s made no secret of the fact that he?d like to film the entire Poirot library. This year marks 20 years since he first played the Belgian detective. He feels the time has passed quickly, mainly because he?s never felt bored of playing him.

?There are ten novels left for meto film, and there is also one short story, which I think we will have to include in one of those ten, ? he says.

?The one, of course, that will close the whole thing for me is Curtain, which is the final book.

It will be a terribly odd experience to film it, although I want to film it desperately because that will mean that I?ll have completed every story. ? He finds it difficult to name his favourite Poirot story. It used to be ABC Murders and he?s a big fan of Death On The Nile. ?I absolutely would love to film Murder On The Orient Express, which many people are surprised we haven?t done as yet, ? he says.

?I do hope I get a chance to do it in my own way and as Agatha wrote him in the book. I look forward to doing that enormously. ? BBC?s flagship arts documentary strand, Arena, goes whale-hunting in an adventure documentary, The Hunt For Moby Dick. The documentary ? filmed in England, America and the Azores over four years ? follows author Philip Hoare as he writes his new book and tackles man?s complex relationship with the whale.

He draws a parallel between the obsessive pursuit of the great white whale in Herman Melville?s 19th Century novel with today?s war on terror.

His journey finds him standing at the desk where Melville wrote his masterpiece and he visits the last remaining whaleship, the Charles W Morgan, to see what conditions on board were really like.

And out in the mile-deep waters of the Atlantic, he has his own extraordinary encounter with the legendary sperm whale itself.

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