The Prisoner is among the most innovative, thought-provoking and influential works of television ever made. It’s also really weird, cool and densely packed with meaning.
(For more on the Prisoner, please read this ancient blog post)
The Prisoner has impacted comic books, music, cartoons and even a follow up revision in 2009 (which, even with its flaws, was quite good). It continues to branch out into other mediums with a new stage play that dramatizes the interplay between star/writer/director Patrick MacGoohan and head of ITV, Lew Grade.
The Prisoner ran for 17 episodes from 1967 to 1968 and was filmed in Portmeirion, the Italianate resort designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1920s.
Now, a new play charting the turbulent relationship during the enigmatic series between actor Patrick McGoohan and media mogul Lew Grade will be performed at Portmeirion for the first time.
Magic Number Six, written by Leicester writer Paul Gosling, will play at Portmeirion, Gwynedd, on March 16 this year during the annual convention of the Prisoner Appreciation Society, known as Six of One.
The play will also be staged at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in August.
The original series followed the fortunes of a former British secret agent who was kidnapped by an unknown enemy and taken to an unnamed village where inmates are numbered but not named.
Patrick McGoohan, who died aged 80 in 2009, co-wrote the original script and played the main character – known only as prisoner Number Six.
He found himself in a constant intellectual and emotional struggle with his captor, Number Two, played by different actors including Leo McKern.
Mr Gosling said: “I am from the generation who first saw The Prisoner in the 1980s on Channel 4, we were the first generation to be able to vide-tape the show and it had a big impact on me.
“I revisited the show when it was released on DVD and ITV4 also re-showed it in recent years and I’d always kept the series in my mind.
“I am also a fan of other shows of that era such as the Supermarionation series by Gerry Anderson and The Avengers and The Saint, so I felt that there was a social crossover between these shows and wanted to cover that.
“So although the play will appeal to The Prisoner and Patrick McGoohan fans, it will hopefully appeal to fans of all those types of shows.”
McGoohan is though to have been inspired to co-write The Prisoner partly from his earlier Danger Man series in which he played spy John Drake,.
In an episode called Colony Three, Drake infiltrates a spy school in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
The school, in the middle of nowhere, is built like a normal English town in which pupils and instructors mix as normal. But the instructors are virtual prisoners with little hope of ever leaving.
McGoohan told Grade during the making of Danger Man, (Grade was then-chairman of ITC Entertainment which made the show) that he wanted to quit the series.
Grade was unhappy but McGoohan later pitched The Prisoner.
In some ways it reflected the story of the spy in The Prisoner who begins his journey to the mysterious island by quitting his role as a spy.
Mr Gosling said: “The play is about Patrick’s relationship with Lew Grade before, during and after the making of The Prisoner.
“It started out very well and they really liked each other, but soon got sour.
“It was in the back of my mind for some time but only took about three or four months to come up with the first draft.
“It’s all set in Lew’s office and it’s pretty minimal.
“There are three characters, Patrick, Lew and Lew’s secretary, Sandra.”
The play’s director Carolos Dandolo said: “We are thrilled to be invited to perform in Portmeirion, where much of the original TV series was filmed, and to receive such warm support from fans of the show.”
Portmeirion’s unique design came from Williams-Ellis’ love of the Italian village of Portofino.
He said when he was designing the village he only wanted to reflect the style of the Mediterranean.
But he added: “How should I not have fallen for Portofino? “Indeed its image remained with me as an almost perfect example of the man-made adornment and use of an exquisite site.”
Via Wales Online