The Strange World of Gurney Slade – Episode Five

gurney 05

Gurney is entertaining a group of children with a tale about a magic tinker.  If they’re very good, he tells them, the tinker may visit and grant them a wish.  When they ask him exactly when the tinker will appear, Gurney is forced to admit that he may not arrive today – since Gurneyland (where he lives) is a long way, away.  Gurney then tells them that “the tinker is really symbolic. He’s an allegorical figure, who represents our innermost thoughts.”

He then explains a little more about Gurneyland.  It’s a place where any of your dreams can become true.  You want to be a great footballer, better than Stanley Matthews?  Or maybe the best singer in the world?  In Gurneyland, you can.

The recursive nature of the series is once more highlighted when Gurney asks one of the children why they didn’t stay inside and watch the television.  He’s told that “there’s nothing on. Just some bloke telling kids a story.”  Shortly afterwards, two partygoers Albert (Bernie Winters) and Veronica (Coral Fairweather) arrive.  And then a few minutes later, Gurney and the children are excited to see the tinker (Charles Lloyd-Pack).

Earlier, we saw Gurney explaining to the children that the tinker wasn’t real – but once he arrives (or at least someone who could be the magic tinker) Gurney is keen to see him demonstrate some of his magic.  Was he actually the magic tinker or just an ordinary tramp?  You’ll need to make your own minds up about that – although it’s not a vitally important point.

What is important is that everybody (the children, the tinker, plus Albert and Veronica) have taken a trip to Gurneyland – quite literally, as they all find themselves transported inside Gurney’s mind.  This is frustrating for Gurney, the point of his story was that Gurneyland is inside everybody (their own personal imagination).  So he’s a little upset to find so many people running amok inside his.

How to get them out?  Once he goes into his mind, he meets his dark side – a horned version of himself.  The bad Gurney suggests drinking and visits to scurrilous French films will instantly make the children want to leave.  Our Gurney is shocked by this and refuses (although at the end of the episode he realises it’s the only way to sort things out).

Gurney’s subconscious is divided into various rooms, such as the Depression Room, the Memory Room and the Common-Sense Room (the last one, he admits, isn’t used very often).  Wandering around his own psyche allows Green & Hills (and maybe Newley himself) to poke some fun at Newley’s public persona.  He admits he has “quite a big mind, but then they always said I had a big head.”

Later on, after he finds that many of the children have invited their parents to join them, he follows them and finds them all watching a version of himself.  He’s singing Strawberry Fair (which was a hit for Newley that year).  After the performance, “our” Gurney reflects that “I should have thought that would have driven them out” and critiquing his own performance he decides that ” I always had the impression I sang better than that.”

Like the previous episode, this is a very theatrical production.  Although the first half is meant to be set outside, it feels stagey and unrealistic (this is a clear production choice, had they wished to shoot on location there’s no reason why they couldn’t have done so).  Newley excels with his multiple personalities and he also plays well off the children.

Although there’s plenty of jokes along the way (such as an invisible elephant that takes a liking to Gurney) it also has some interesting things to say about good and evil, as well as the borderline between fantasy and reality.  It’s another deep and rich episode that covers a lot of ground during its twenty five minutes.

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