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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Hollander’

I’ve now watched this Andrew Davies adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel at least three times over the years (it might even be four), and my admiration grows each time. I think it must be one of his very greatest TV adaptations, up there with his takes on Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair – and it is yet another one from the late 1990s, a period which saw an extraordinary flowering of classic adaptations. All the cast are superb, with my very favourite performances coming from Francesca Annis and Michael Gambon. For me, Wives and Daughters is Gaskell’s masterpiece, and this is a version which does it justice. Sadly she didn’t live to write the last few pages of her novel, but I rather like the ending this mini-series supplies – though I’ll discuss that at the end!

This mini-series looks beautiful, set in the countryside throughout (apart from brief glimpses of Cynthia in London and Roger in Africa), with endless shots of sweeping green landscapes and country houses. Director Nicholas Renton also made the fine 1998 version of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, which has a similar feeling for country scenery. However, like his FFTMC, this isn’t just an idyllic picture of country life – it is made clear how characters are hemmed in and how difficult it is for anyone to escape the atmosphere of gossip and all the little rules governing village society. Wives and Daughters doesn’t deal with changing times as overtly as North and South, but the theme is still there, as is class conflict. The Squire in particular is clinging to the past while everything changes around him.

For anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the mini-series, the story centres on a doctor’s daughter, Molly Gibson, who gains a new step-mother and step-sister, Hyacinth and Cynthia, when her father remarries – and on the tensions within this ill-assorted instant family. However, if you haven’t read/seen it, you’d be best not to read on until you have, as I’ll be discussing aspects of the whole plot – and also, as with North and South, you have a great double treat in store from the book and film.:)

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It’s a few weeks now since I watched Cambridge Spies, so it’s starting to fade in my mind and this won’t be a proper review – but I wanted to write a brief posting to say I enjoyed it and think it will have a lot of appeal to fellow costume drama fans.

I didn’t watch the series when it was first shown on the BBC, because I think for some reason I got it into my head that it was a docu-drama, a genre I find hard to like – but, despite the announcement at the beginning of each of the four episodes that this is a true story with some changes, it’s a fully-realised drama  without that “docu” feeling about it.

CambridgeSpiesThe director is Tim Fywell, who made the movie of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle,  and it has the same sort of breathtakingly beautiful photography and the feeling of a vanished world – especially the opening episode, set at Cambridge between the wars, which has something of the languorous atmosphere of Brideshead Revisited.   The script is by Peter Moffat. I don’t think I’ve seen much of his other work, but he scripted last year’s Einstein and Eddington – another one I sadly managed to miss.

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Just a quick taster of a few coming costume drama attractions on British TV this autumn and winter … these are nearly all BBC series or films, with one from ITV. I don’t think Channel 4 has announced its autumn season yet, but will hope to post something about that as and when it does.

The most eagerly awaited series has to be the new Sandy Welch adaptation of Emma, and there has also been a fair bit of information about a Cranford follow-up in store at Christmas – here’s a link to a fan site on the series –  but there are also several other goodies to look forward to:

Desperate Romantics – on BBC2, a major new six-part series about the Pre-Raphaelites, apparently starting later this month – written by Peter Bowker who scripted  Blackpool (not really a costume drama but I loved it) and also the latest version of  Wuthering Heights.  Starring Aidan Turner, Rafe Spall, Tom Hollander, Samuel Barnett.
There is already a fan site for this series which has brought together a lot of info, interviews and pictures.

Garrow’s Law – on BBC1, a four-part 18th-century legal drama inspired by the life of pioneering barrister William Garrow, starring Andrew Buchan, who was in Cranford, and Alun Armstrong.

Small Island – two-part drama on BBC1,  adapted from Andrea Levy’s novel and set in 1940s Jamaica and London. Starring Ruth Wilson, who took the title role in the Andrew Davies version of Jane Eyre, with Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, Ashley Walters and Naomie Harris.  

Land Girls – new BBC1 daytime drama about the Second World War, with an impressive cast including Nathaniel Parker and Christine Bottomley – this is apparently being shown in September:

Enid Blyton, Gracie Fields and Margot Fonteyn – three one-off dramas for BBC4 which all look to have really impressive casts, especially the first of these, which stars Helena Bonham-Carter as Blyton, with Matthew Macfadyen and Denis Lawson. The Gracie Fields film stars Jane Horrocks of Little Voice fame, and the Margot film stars Anne-Marie Duff, who played Queen Elizabeth I in The Virgin Queen – other casting hasn’t been announced for these two yet.
As well as the general press release, here’s a link to another release with more detail about the Enid Blyton drama.

Wuthering Heights –  on ITV, this adaptation has already been shown in the US but not over here – it is supposed to be coming up here this autumn or maybe at Christmas, and is adapted by Peter Bowker, starring Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley. There are rumours this could be the “last ITV costume drama” – I certainly hope not, and I find it very hard to believe that will be the case in the medium to longer term!

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Passing on another link – this time to the BBC’s press release about a new drama series coming up this year on BBC2, Desperate Romantics, which traces the lives and loves of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I’ve seen a couple of good exhibitions of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the last couple of years and will look forward to the series.  Sounds like a good cast, including Rafe Spall and Tom Hollander.

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