BBC Radio 7, 22 March 2009
Falkner's tale of smuggling, death and redemption was ideally suited for radio adaptation. Scarcely pausing to draw breath, Sally Avens's production rapidly moved from the inside of Elzevir Block's (James Laurenson's) comfortable inn the 'Why Not?' to the Dorset coast as Block and the youthful John Trenchard (Richard Pearce) escaped from the police after murdering the miserly Maskew (Stephen Boxer). The action shifted to the a lonely cave used as a hideout by the two fugitives; and back to the 'Why Not?' as Trenchard was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing and came into an unexpected fortune.
At a deeper level this Moonfleet contained strong religious overtones, with the theme of redemption dominating the plot. Trenchard is rescued from destitution with Block's assistance; the older man willingly sacrificing personal safety to guarantee the boy's wellbeing. Block himself, a strong, bluff yet ultimately well-meaning man, is cleared of his crime as he reveals a strong commitment towards God. Meanwhile the supposedly pious personality Maskew turns out to be a hyprocrite as he takes his impressionable young daughter Grace (Tilly Gaunt) away from the local school in the mistaken belief that she was being 'corrupted' by associating with the rough-hewn citizens of Moonfleet.
Avens's production also celebrated the virtues of male bonding, which assumed far greater significance than the so-called 'natural' relationship between Maskew and Grace. Block acts as both father and mother to Trenchard as they eked out a primitive existence in the cave; even when the story had ended, the older Trenchard (Robert Glenister) - who served as narrator in the adaptation - recalled with pleasure his association with Block which ultimately taught him the importance of 'manliness.' By contrast the orthodox Christian religion - symbolized in Falkner's work by the church that serves as the smugglers' hideout - is portrayed as impossibly corrupt.
In this mid-Victorian adventure homosexuality is never once referred to: Falkner considers it quite normal for two men to participate in a father/son relationship as a way of socializing the younger man and thereby transforming him into a suitable marriage partner for Grace.