BBC Radio 4 Extra, 28 May 2011
John Wyndham's disturbing tale of a boy (Sacha Dhawan) apparently possessed
by Chocky (Kathryn Hunt) that transforms him into an adolescent ubermensch, capable of writing innovative musique
concrete as well as solving complex philosophical and mathematical problems.
Melanie Harris' 2007 production began quite ordinarily as a tale of a nuclear family,
David Gore (Owen Teale), his wife Mary (Cathy Tyson), Matthew and Polly (Holly Grainger), trying to survive the daily pressures
of modern urban life. We only sensed that something was amiss when Matthew began to talk to his imaginary friend. At first
David and Mary thought that this was nothing more than a passing phase, the product of their son's over-fertile imagination;
but as the play unfolded we understood how Matthew had actually been taken over by Chocky. This was suggested through overlapping
voices: Chocky repeatedly finished off Matthew's sentences, emphasizing the extent to which she dominated his consciousness.
Yet this possession was not altogether malignant, as Matthew attained certain levels
of academic and artistic excellence that he would never have contemplated before. Director Harris developed this idea to pose
an interesting question: should teenagers submit to their parents' will, or should they be given the chance to develop
their own particular skills, even if by doing so they might be transformed into 'unnatural' beings (in their parents' opinion).
While the adaptation seemed to have a happy, if somewhat predictable ending, with Chocky vowing to leave Matthew alone in
response to David's entreaties, we were left to wonder whethe the newly 'liberated' Matthew was actually liberated at all,
but rather condemned to a life of stale predictability.
Chocky herself admitted that she had violated the rules of her scout mission - by
interfering with events on Earth - and vowed instead to continue her work in a more covert manner. However Kathryn Hunt delivered
these lines in a flat monotone, as if she did not actually believe what she was saying; like Matthew, she had been forced by
her parents (i.e. the aliens who sent her to Earth in the first place) to accept a life of conformity,
First published in 1968, Chocky still packs a social punch. Unlike
more well-known films about diabolic possession of children, such as The Exorcist (1973) or The Omen (1976),
Wyndham's novel (and Harris') adaptation uses the theme to explore English middle-class morality which places
more value on outward respectability rather than individual creativity. This often leads to children's talents being nipped
in the bud, even if this results in grave psychological consequences.