The fabulous BBC screen adaptation Wolf Hall hits BBC First on 11 April. For all of you (and we know there are many!) who loved reading Wolf Hall this is a must-see. Here’s a taster!
How does it feel to have your books turned into television and stage drama? It’s a privilege. It’s illuminating, exciting. It’s not, as people sometimes think, in any way odd or jarring. It seems to continue a natural process that goes on in the writer’s head. As you write, you see and hear. To have the images transferred to the outside world, to hear the voices externally, is a kind of magic, but it’s also a logical step. The play, the film, already exists inside you. The art is to work with people who will help you relocate that inner reality and put it where others can share it.
Did you have any stipulations or unvoiced fears?
I wanted to know that both teams, for the stage and TV versions, shared my values. It’s a fundamental belief of mine that good drama doesn’t have to mean bad history. History is never a convenient shape, it’s true. But if you have the craft and the will to do it, you can find a way to tell a good story without distortion, and find the dramatic shape in real events.
What was it like watching the television adaptation for the first time? Did it fulfil your expectations?
My expectations were high and have been exceeded: in the concision and coherence of the storytelling, in the originality of the interpretations, in the break from the romantic clichés of the genre, in the wit and style and heart. Having seen Peter Straughan’s scripts at every stage, and knowing Peter Kosminsky’s work and admiring it as I do, I was confident. Yet also curious to see how my imagination matched theirs. Particularly with characters where there is no portrait, where my books had to conjure them from thin air: how would they appear? As the final product unfolds, every face seems to me one that Holbein would recognise, even if he didn’t paint it.