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New Release Review - Tin

Miracle Theatre's screen adaptation of their play based on Edward Bosanketh's novel.


Review by Ren Zelen*

Directed by: Bill Scott

Starring: Jenny Agutter, Dudley Sutton, Jason Squibb, Dean Nolan



"Previously a successful touring play, Tin the movie has undergone an interesting metamorphosis. The film has a whimsical, exaggerated style that heightens the melodramatic nature of the story. Sets are meticulously dressed and costumes are richly detailed."


I love a bit of fictional melodrama, me. So much so, that I remember writing one as a play during my sixth form years for my classmates to perform – in front of nuns… One can get away with being subtly contentious or risqué, as long as one has some larger-than-life characters and a good yarn to tell.
The Edwardian melodrama Tin is based on Edward Bosanketh’s controversial novel, published in 1888. His characters were inspired by well-known local Cornish townspeople (thinly disguised) and the story exposed the real-life shady dealings of the local bank. The bankers accused were so incensed by the allegations that they attempted to buy and destroy all copies of the book. They burned as many copies as they could find but, fortunately, a few survived – one of which was read by The Miracle Theatre's writer and director Bill Scott. What better credentials for an intriguing drama? Add the fact that, due the popularity of the new version of Poldark gracing British TV screens at the moment, Cornwall is a hot location (helped by the shirtless Aidan Turner wandering around in front of picturesque Cornish scenery).
Not so much in the way of shirtless young actors in this drama, but, set in West Cornwall in 1895, this Cornish mining tale offers plenty of history, intrigue, deceit and much charm from the characters, including beloved British actress Jenny Agutter. Ms. Agutter stars as Mrs. Dawson, the actor-manager of a singing troupe which arrives to perform in the town hall and then becomes embroiled in a scam to offload worthless shares in an ailing tin mine. When the mine unexpectedly offers up a rich new seam, fair play is abandoned, illegal shenanigans ensue, and the fate of the whole community depends on the ingenuity and generosity of Mrs. Dawson and the courage of a feisty young maid who must decide whether or not she should reveal the dubious actions of her ‘betters’ that she has glimpsed and overheard.
As described by the producers: "Three contrasting love stories unfold as villagers and actors seize an opportunity to transform their lives. As the community’s spiritual leaders come to blows deep underground, a ripping good performance of Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’ is given in the town hall – against all odds.”
Previously a successful touring play, Tin the movie has undergone an interesting metamorphosis. Filmmaker and writer Bill Scott (Dressing Granite, Cheap Rate Gravity) is responsible for transposing Tin from the stage to the big screen. The lost world of 19th century Cornish tin mining is re-created using a mixture of ‘low-tech’ model-making, back-projections and hi-tech special effects to give the film a uniquely stylized and stagey feel. The film was shot over 15 days in 2012 in a purpose-built green-screen studio in the old Redruth Grammar School before much of the sets and backgrounds were added using technical wizardry in order to keep costs down. The film has a whimsical, exaggerated style that heightens the melodramatic nature of the story. Sets are meticulously dressed and costumes are richly detailed.
Utilizing a Cornish based cast and crew, and commissioned by the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, the film features the original cast of the theatre production, which includes Redruth-born opera star Ben Luxon. Jenny Agutter – who counts Walkabout, The Railway Children and An American Werewolf In London among her many film experiences – herself has a house in Cadgwith on the Lizard Peninsula.
The Cornish story has always attracted writers with its particular qualities of outlaw history and wild and windswept scenery. Apart from Winston Graham’s historical Poldark series, Daphne Du Maurier’s novels are considered classics and more recently the crime writer William John Burley’s stories featuring detective Charles Wycliffe have all been set in Cornwall.
Tin benefits from another aspect of a uniquely Cornish experience – the vicissitudes of its historic Tin Mining industry - “This film has been in development for about 15 years – quite long enough for any project!” says Bill Scott. “The script has been through several drafts, rehearsed readings and live performances at venues across Cornwall. Now we have assembled a wonderful cast and highly skilled local crew to tell the film version of this very Cornish story that I’m sure will have huge international appeal.”


*Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2015 All rights reserved.


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