Drawn Into The Drama
The Pale Horse is the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie on the BBC, which ends this Sunday, and here’s one of its stars, Bertie Carvel, talking about it…
Bertie Carvel plays shopkeeper Zachariah Osborne in The Pale Horse.
Can you describe the story of The Pale Horse?
A list of names is found in a dead woman’s shoe and one by one, the people on the list turn up dead. It’s ultimately about class anxiety and the lengths people will go to take each other’s money.
Can you describe your character?
Osborne is described as an owlish little man with wire-rim spectacles, who runs a hardware shop on the Goldhawk Road. He’s drawn into the drama because his name is found on the list in Jessie Davis’ shoe. She worked for him.
How do you think the show will feel different to a usual whodunit?
This story both defines the genre but often subverts it, which is really cool.
What do you think Sarah Phelps has brought to the adaptation?
It’s great to take the risk of inviting other artists to respond to something that you’ve enjoyed and loved. The main reason I wanted to take on this part was because I liked the script. You really need a great script because that’s the document that binds everybody’s imaginations together. Before we all start differing and making wonderful, creative compromises, there was something that everybody read and wanted to recreate.
How has it been to be transported back to 1961?
The first thing our wonderful costume designer said to me when we were talking about the character was the concept of ‘backdating’. In other words, his clothes would not have been bought in 1961, which is right. His clothes were real vintage and probably made in the late ’50s and have been kept in a costume store and had wearers and lives before they became costumes. They’re documents of time. You put these things on and you know that they’re older than you are.
What aspects of life in the 1960s does the script explore?
There is certainly a sense of instability in the way the world is turning, which feels familiar for us. There are some significant conflicts around the corner and the memory of a big one just there. It feels like a time of anxiety.