Never have I enjoyed a book of scripts more than this one, which contains the original scripts to the entire series (28 episodes in all) of Rising Damp. I say the “original” scripts because changes were made to some of the scripts during rehearsals, during filming, or prior to transmission. In addition to minor changes, an entire scene was eliminated in a few cases, and in at least one instance a scene was added, and it is interesting to read the scripts the way writer Eric Chappell originally intended.
While the dialogue in the scripts is clever and witty and makes for enjoyable and relaxing bedtime reading, it is particularly nice to have the scripts for reference in conjunction with viewing the series. There is a large amount of physical comedy in the series which is at most only alluded to in the scripts, with phrases such as “Rigsby demonstrates” or “Rigsby winces.” Although I appreciated Leonard Rossiter’s comic genius the first time I saw the series, my appreciation has only deepened for having read the scripts. It wasn’t until then that I realised just how very little guidance was provided in the scripts and conversely how very much of the interpretation and antics were down to Rossiter himself. As Chappell himself says of Rossiter: “I may have provided the words, but he provided the punctuation. His whole body would form a question mark, the twist of his head was an exclamation, his eyes blazed italics, and the open-mouthed stare was a line of dots going into infinity” (p. 9).
Another nice feature of the book that sets it apart from the other books of scripts I’ve come across is the introductory materials provided by Chappell. There is a two-page general introduction and a further two pages of comments on the actors. There are also 3-4 pages introducing each of the four series, wherein Chappell tells us specifics about the creation of each series and the episodes. Much of the information provided will be familiar to those who have read Richard Webber’s excellent tribute book, Rising Damp A Celebration. Nevertheless, there is much fresh material in this book, particularly regarding the specifics of individual episodes.
Finally, this 543-page book contains 16 pages of photos, 14 of which contain colour stills from the series and 2 of which are b/w shots of Chappell. The book concludes with a cast list for each episode and includes the dates of recording and original transmission as well as rehearsal locations. Highly recommended to fans of the series.
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