The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope, adapted by Martyn Wade

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BBC Radio 7, 21-25 March 2011
Described by The Guardian's Elizabeth Mansfield (24 March 2011) as "brilliant and luxurious," this version of Trollope's novel showed how social aspirations could often ruin people's lives. Adolphus Crosbie (Alex Jennings) chooses to marry the aristocratic Lady Alexandrina (Geraldine Fitzgerald), rather than Lily Dale (Julia Ford), whom he truly loves. The decision is a particularly brutal one; having promised to marry Lily, he makes another promise to Lady Alexandrina without telling Lily beforehand. In an aside to listeners, he justifies his decision in purely personal terms; this is the best way for him to acquire both riches and reputation.
Jonny Eames (Jamie Glover), who is also in love with Lily, objects quite strongly to Adolphus' decision, and seeks revenge in the belief that right is on his side. The two men end up having a fight in a station: Jonny is arrested, while Adolphus ends up with a black eye.
Through such sequences director Cherry Cookson invited us to consider the relationship between public duty and personal inclinations. Jonny might believe that he owes it to Lily to take revenge on Adolphus, but we wonder whether he is not personally motivated. Lily perpetually rejects Jonny's advances, claiming instead that she will love Adolphus until she dies. The emphasis on public duty causes untold suffering for the two protagonists: Lily sustains a facade of politeness even while pining for her fiance's loss, while Adolphus endures the indignity of a loveless marriage with a spouse who prefers to go on holiday with her mother rather than remain in the cheerless family home.
Jennings' Adolphus was a complex character: on the one hand he seemed insufferably arrogant in the way he rejected Lily and showed scant concern for her family into the bargain. On the other hand he made every effort to repent for what he had done; when this proved futile, he was full of self-loathing. By contrast Sharp's Lily remained strong throughout, even when she became aware of Adolphus' scheming nature. It was her mother (Brenda Blethyn) who showed extreme emotion; like a weather-vane she veered between joy and sadness. Lily understood the value of trust and loyalty, both to herself and her love for Adolphus, and to the old Squire (Richard Vernon), who generously provided accommodation for herself and her mother. This eponymous 'small house at Allington' became a refuge, a site of innocence and truth that helped Lily come to terms with her suffering.
While the production did not contain any happy endings, it nonetheless celebrated Lily's mental growth - unlike Adolphus, who was condemned to perpetual suffering. 

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