Barry Lyndon by W. M. Thackeray, adapted by Don McCamphill

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BBC Radio 7, 14-15 July 2010
First broadcast in 2003, this picaresque tale told of Redmond Barry (Gerald McSorley), the black sheep of an Irish family, and possessed of an indomitable spirit as well as an innate sense of his own rightness. Forced out of the family home at a tender age, he ends up in Dublin where he pretends to be an aristocrat. Having run up huge debts, Redmond is eventually conscripted into the British army, and travels around Europe winning and losing huge fortunes at cards, accompanied by his faithful Uncle Cornelius (David Kelly).
Eventually he pursues and married the Countess Lyndon (Tina Kelleher), and undergoes a significant character-change. Whereas once Redmond - now known as Barry Lyndon - was something of a loveable rogue, now he becomes more and more vain, so convinced of his own importance that he cannot understand how much the English aristocracy despise him. His vanity drives him to imprison his spouse for alleged 'disloyalty,' as well as spending the vast Lyndon fortunes. Once again he is thrown into jail, with only his ageing mother (Sheila Hancock) for company. Defiant to the last, Barry believes that history will exonerate him by recognizing his heroic deeds - unlike those English mediocrities and their Irish cohorts who jailed him.
Lawrence Jackson's production highlighted the distinction between Barry's rose-coloured view of the world, with himself at the centre, and the seamy truth. Constructed as a first-person narrative, we only understood Barry's flaws when we realized that every problem he encountered was self-created. If he were not so vain, then perhaps he would have an easier life. Throughout the adaptation, director Jackson used aural metaphors to remind us of Barry's existence - for example, the click of a dice in a shaker, suggesting that in his view life is little more than a game of chance.
McSorley's characterization of Barry was a masterpiece of optimism and self-promotion - like Voltaire's Pangloss in Candide, Barry believed that everything was for the best and helped contribute to his own self-advancement. His tone seldom changed; in his view adverse situations could be turned to his advantage. Although left with nothing at the end, he still believed that fortune might turn the corner for him.