Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bleak House

During the week we have been re-watching Bleak House on DVD. This has been one of best 'period' adaptations ever done by the BBC. From Gillian Anderson's Lady Dedlock to Phil Davis's Smallweed the acting has been wonderful. Charles Dance's Tulkinghorn was evil personified.

One of the problems with Victorian novels is that the heroes and especially the heroines are too good to be true, so I look for interesting character flaws. John Jarndyce was a kind and tolerant man, but his desire for Esther and his proposal of marriage after she was scarred by smallpox reveal his motives to be anything but pure. And why did he encourage Skimpole? Young Ada'a loyalty to Rick may seem commendable, but by capitulating to his will, she encouraged his slavish pursuit of the case in Chancery and hence his ultimate demise. Esther seems like an angel, but could she not have done more to encourage Woodcourt instead of allowing him to depart as a ship's surgeon. She also put herself in an invidious position by declaring she would have no secrets from Ada, but then having not one (her parentage) but another (her engagement). Even the saintly Miss Flite had the nasty habit of locking up song birds in cages.

What I particularly liked about the production was spotting well-known actors in minor parts. Ann Reid is of course Valerie Barlow from Coronation Street. Timothy West (married to Prunella Scales from Fawlty Towers and father of Sam West) is a famous Shakespearean actor and made a great Sir Leicester Dedlock. Nathanial Parker (Horace Skimpole) is Inspector Linley. Sheila Hancock (Mrs Guppy) was Mrs John Thaw). Joanna David (Mrs Badger) is Edward Fox's partner (Day of the Jackal). Richard Griffiths (Dr Badger) is better known as the star of the History Boys. Burn Gorman (Guppy) is now starring in the Dr Who spin-off, Torchwood. Pauline Collins (Miss Flite)started life as Sarah, the maid, in Upstairs Downstairs. The judge was played by the late Ian Richardson who was in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the Michael Dobbs' Francis Urquhart series. Johnny Vegas (Krook) is a well-known comedian and Alistair McGowan (Kenge) a well known impressionist. Even Joe the road sweeper was played by Harry Eden, who was the artful Dodger in Polanski's Oliver Twist. Alun Armstrong (Inspector Bucket) is currently an ex-cop in New Tricks (see it if you haven't found it yet). Warren Clarke (Boythorne) is, of course, Dalziel (from Dalziel and Pascoe). Finally, the footman, Mercury, was played by Richard Cant who is the son of Brian Cant, my all-time favorite presenter from children's television. (And doesn't he look like him!)

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