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Engaging Integrity

Mark Dexter plays
Peter Warlock -
recommended by

'... a triumphant success ...'

Peter Warlock - Some Little Joy. © 2008 Signum Records

I am delighted to make my peace with Tony Britten, and indeed more than that. Rescoring Verdi's Falstaff was never a task for lesser mortals, I fear, even when as gifted as Mr Britten undoubtedly is; so I could only regret his earlier DVD. But in this new venture he has discovered his true métier, and I could give him a list as long as my arm of lesser composers, whose lives were sufficiently colourful or strange to make entertaining material for a film. Meanwhile this Warlock effort is a triumphant success, and he has been fortunate in the discovery of Mark Dexter to play the leading role. There is something a little disturbing in photographs of Warlock, and I suspect Dexter of being more trustworthy as well as more handsome; but he enters into the role with an engaging integrity and zest for sin that carries complete conviction.

And what a cast of characters there is to manipulate. Even when at Eton, Philip Heseltine as he then was became obsessed with the music of Delius, and even managed to lure him out from London to look round the ancient college. In view of Delius's ultimate blindness and paralysis, he may not have been wise to encourage the sensuous side of Warlock's nature. But there they are, Frederick in his wheelchair, and Jelka in faithful attendance at Grez, reading a newly arrived letter from Philip.

Watch and listen -- chapter 3, 8:43-9:20
© 2006 Capriol Films Ltd, 2008 Signum Records

Transport is splendidly of the period, whether motorbike steered by a drunken Warlock, car bearing the broad-brimmed hat of Augustus John and its owner beneath, or train carrying Warlock off to make obscene limericks for the benefit of Hubert Foss, in charge of the Oxford Press music division. In the background is always the doting mother, widowed early and now remarried. Foss is astute enough to appreciate Warlock's gifts, but knows how readily his tongue and pen can make enemies.

Watch and listen -- chapter 7, 17:00-18:20
© 2006 Capriol Films Ltd, 2008 Signum Records

There were many women in Warlock's life. Three of them are represented here, to be used or misused as he thought fit. Did he love any of them? He had his son Nigel by 'Puma' (Maimie McCoy), an artists' model, whom he then married. Barbara Peache, sharing Warlock with a member of the aristocracy, is attractively played by Lucy Brown, whether in bed or out of it. Perhaps the most important of all was the Winifred Baker of Georgina Rich, shrewd enough to keep him a little at arm's length.

Another composer championed by Warlock was Bernard van Dieren, who seems to have sunk without trace. He had the wisdom to realise that Warlock the miniaturist was perhaps more likely to survive in the musical firmament than himself.

Watch and listen -- chapter 8, 21:54-22:24
© 2006 Capriol Films Ltd, 2008 Signum Records

To make the point, much of the background music to the film is from the Capriol Suite, part of which accompanies a sozzled Warlock on a dream-journey back to Eynsford, where the station-master knows exactly how to manage his disorientated customer.

Watch and listen -- chapter 10, 27:45-29:39
© 2006 Capriol Films Ltd, 2008 Signum Records

The Deliuses were in London for an October 1929 festival of his music, organised by Beecham, with Warlock as trusty lieutenant. By then Warlock was to some extent disenchanted with the music; but Tony Britten has imagined a telling scene in which the testy Delius scorns an offer by Hubert Foss to publish his Cynara.

Watch and listen -- chapter 20, 64:54-65:54
© 2006 Capriol Films Ltd, 2008 Signum Records

The end for Warlock came not much more than a year later. The gas-tap was loose, but the likelihood is that he committed suicide when still only thirty-six.

Watch and listen -- chapter 27, 84:27-85:03
© 2006 Capriol Films Ltd, 2008 Signum Records

Tony Britten and Mark Dexter have brought him vividly to life again. Where will they turn next?

Copyright © 30 October 2008 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


Peter Warlock - Some Little Joy

SIGDVD002 PAL DVD Region 0 16:19 AC3 5.1 / PCM Stereo NEW RELEASE 88' 2006 Capriol Films Ltd / 2008 Signum Records

Mark Dexter, Peter Warlock / Philip Heseltine
Lucy Brown, Barbara Peache
Maimie McCoy, Puma
Georgina Rich, Winifred Baker

A film drama, written and directed by Tony Britten, about a man who, by his death at thirty six, had composed some of the most perfect gems of English songwriting and elevated hedonism to an art form.

The Peter Warlock Society
Welcome to Eynsford
Delius and Jelka in France
Barbara and Philip
Edith and Walter
The bet
Off to Oxford
The Antelope
The Arts Club
The Journey Home ('Pavane')
Philip needs Winifred
'The Cloths of Heaven'
Off to Norfolk
The Peter Warlock Society
Philip drunk - The Five Bells, Eynsford
A new start
Farewell to Eynsford
Philip and the Delius's
Van Dieren at the Antelope
Philip and Winifred at the lake
'The Fox'
Edith and Walter disappointed
'The Frostbound Wood'
The Peter Warlock Society
The end - 'Pieds - en - l'air'
End titles

Director/leading actor commentary


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