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Posts Tagged ‘Imelda Staunton’

I’ve just got back from a week’s holiday near Stratford upon Avon. While staying there, I was lucky enough to see two excellent RSC productions, of The Winter’s Tale and As You Like It – and, keeping up the Shakespearean theme, also watched a DVD of Trevor Nunn’s movie of Twelfth Night.  This must be one of my favourites out of the modern films of Shakespeare that I’ve seen, and it would be interesting to know how much is taken from Nunn’s stage productions.

Nunn’s version of Illyria looks visually sumptuous, with turbulent Cornish seascapes and beautiful countryside, while the costumes seem vaguely Victorian rather than Elizabethan. The music, by Sean Davey, adds to the haunting atmosphere. I was surprised at the way the film starts with the play’s “back story”, of the shipwreck – and the startling glimpse of Steven Mackintosh as Sebastian and Imogen Stubbs as Viola both dressed as women, taking part in an on-board entertainment. This seems to have been included to emphasise the play’s element of cross-dressing and to balance against the scene near the end where the two are seen both dressed identically as men.

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I’ve now watched Return to Cranford (that’s the title on the DVD, though on TV it was just billed as the Cranford Christmas special) twice. When I first watched it, over the Christmas holidays, I found myself slightly bewildered, as I didn’t remember who all the characters were or how they tied in with one another. However, after re-watching the original series I did get a lot more out of this sequel, as I’d hoped. I’m going to discuss the whole plot in this review, so, if you haven’t watched it yet, you might want to come back to my review after you have!

Rereading Cranford, I was surprised to find that the major storyline about the railway arriving and causing upheaval to the old-fashioned small town, which is at the centre of this two-part drama, carrying on from the end of the first series, isn’t in the book at all. As I mentioned in my review of the first series, it contained quite a lot that isn’t in Gaskell’s text, including some of the most moving incidents – but there is even more new material in this two-part series. In fact, just about the only sections which are taken from Gaskell’s Cranford stories are the story about Mrs Jameson’s cousin, Lady Glenmire (Celia Imrie) coming to stay and dismaying her snobbish relation with her down-to-earth attitude… plus the hilarious sequence about Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton) ordering a “cage” from Paris for her pet cockatoo (this is the plot of the short story The Cage at Cranford)  and another comic section, near the end, about a magician, Signor Brunoni (Tim Curry) putting on a show in the town.

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Dame Judi Dench, Lisa Dillon and Dame Eileen Atkins as Miss Matty, Mary Smith and Miss Jenkyns.

First of all, sorry to have been silent – I’ve been busy again, but have been watching costume dramas even though I haven’t been writing about them! Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favourite 19th-century authors and I’m now planning to have a season on my blog about adaptations of her work, starting with Cranford and its sequel and then going on to North and South and Wives and Daughters.

There were also 1970s adaptations of all these books, which I would love to compare with the more recent versions, as well as a 1964 Mary Barton and a 1982 version of her novella Cousin Phillis – but sadly none of these are ever repeated or available on video/DVD, so it seems unlikely I’ll get the chance to see them unless the BBC starts delving into its archives.

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