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Tuesday 13 November 2012

The Therapy Zone

Immortally Entwined Portmeirion & the Prisoner

    The 1960's television series the Prisoner has been attributed to Patrick McGoohan, for writing, directing, acting and producing, and no one I think can question how much of an influence McGoohan had with his total hands-on approach. However there are those who also contributed in their own right, script writer and editor George Markstein for one, director David Tomblin for another, not to mention numerous script writers, Roger Parkes, Vincent Tilsley, Ian Rakoff, Gerald Kelsey, Roger Woodis, Anthony Skene, Terence Feely, Lewis Greifer, Michael Cramoy, which is all right and proper. However what would ‘the Prisoner’ be without the Italianate village of Portmeirion? Because Portmeirion played its part just as much as anyone, perhaps more so, for had it not been for Portmeirion there probably would have been no Prisoner series, certainly not the Prisoner series which we have come to know and appreciate.
   It was during the filming of the ‘Danger Man’ episode ‘View From a Villa’ that Patrick McGoohan thought Portmeirion to be the very place where one could be isolated, and yet be in any part of the world. The idea of a man in isolation having been rattling around in his mind for some time.
    But what of Portmeirion itself? Architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, had conceived the idea for Portmeirion some 30 years before it could even begin to be realised in actual fact. But none the less for that, Portmeirion was a very real existence in Sir Clough's mind.
    So from a very early age of 5 or 6 Sir Clough Williams-Ellis had decided to become an architect, and resolved to erect a whole group of buildings on his own chosen site, to that of his own satisfaction, an ensemble that would body forth his own chafing ideas of fitness and gaiety and indeed be his. Thus for a generation did the idea of Portmeirion simmered and boiled within him, until the day finally arrived when his idea could be born.
    So it was that Sir Clough Williams-Ellis began he search for the ideal site where his village which was to be Pormeirion could be erected. At first Sir Clough looked at nothing but Islands, and as far away as New Zealand, which would have been impossible for him, and just as well for us, fans of the Prisoner and of Portmeirion in its own right. So then Sir Clough spent time cruising all around the coast of Great Britain, prospecting for a suitable island, a total of 22 islands were looked at and one even taken to the extent of actually being surveyed. Yet there are so many daunting disadventures attached to the islands when you get down to particulars.
    And so it was that in the end of Sir Cloughs wanderings, that he found what he had for so long sought almost on his own doorstep, not 5 miles away from his family home. A private peninsula at the head of Cardigan bay, set on the mouth of an estuary, and ringed by the mountains of Snowdonia. And that really was just as well for Patrick McGoohan and Danger Man and in more particularly the Prisoner. Because without Portmeirion the Prisoner would have lacked so much, because the location is every bit as important as the script, actors, writers and director. If it were not for Portmeirion.... the one standing alone, the Prisoner and Portmeirion, yet seemingly the one created for the other. Well can you think of any such location where the Prisoner could have been filmed and at the same time give such a visual impact as Portmeirion?


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