Chatterton: The Allington Solution

Benedict Cumberbatch“Another maverick, Jeremy Allington (Adrian Scarborough) took the leading role in Peter Ackroyd’s début radio play Chatterton: The Allington Solution. This ingenious quasi-detective thriller had modern academic Allington trying to discover the real cause of the eighteenth century poet Thomas Chatterton’s (Benedict Cumberbatch’s) death. After extensive research, Allington discovered that the poet took his own life by misadventure, after having taken an overdose of arsenic and laudanum while drunk, in an attempt to cure the clap. Ackroyd’s play skilfully oscillated between past and present, showing how Allington’s concern for ‘the truth’ paralleled Chatterton’s search for artistic truth as a poet. There was no such thing as ‘fact’ that could be distinguished from ‘fiction’ – both author and critic were engaged on a similar spiritual quest. Ackroyd’s fiction has been conveniently pigeonholed by academic critics as ‘postmodern;’ on the evidence of this play I would rather see him as preoccupied by the act of writing – what it involves, and how it engages the whole being, both heart and soul. Roy McMillan directed an entertaining production.”