Period dramas for 2015..?

Hello everyone! It’s been a terribly long time since I last posted on here – my new year’s resolution however is to pick my blog back up again – there are so many books and adaptations I have to write about!

So to kick off… What have we to look forward to in the world of period dramas for 2015? The answer in short is… lots.

Hands up who can’t wait to see Damien Lewis star as Henry VIII in the adaptation of Wolf Hall? The six-part series will air on BBC2 later in January focusing on Henry’s advisor Thomas Cromwell (played by Mark Rylance) and his rise to prominence in the Tudor court. I’ve read the first novel in the series by Hilary Mantel and can’t wait to see how it translates to screen. You can watch the (very exciting) new trailer here.

Also on the BBC, we’ve got a series of four 20th-century classic adaptations to look forward to – including Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie, LP Hartley’s The Go-Between (which I confess I’ve never read) and a version of JB Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls. The one I’m most looking forward to is Lady Chatterley – starring Holliday Grainger (of Great Expectations and Borgias fame), Richard Madden (from Game of Thrones) and James Norton (Death Comes to Pemberley.) It’s a 90 minute film so I’m interested to see how it will all be condensed down…

We’ve also got the delights of a remake of Poldark to look forward to. I’m personally a little young to remember this the first time around but from what I’ve heard it was the must-see bodice-ripping TV viewing of the 70’s. Aiden Turner (the gorgeous Dante Gabriel Rossetti in Desperate Romantics), will be starring as Ross Poldark, a British officer who returns from the American War of Independence in the 18th century to discover his childhood enemy has snatched away his fiancee. Cue epic drama and romance.

And finally Mr Selfridge is back and work is to be started on a new series of Downton. Could 2015 be the year for period drama TV viewing? (I really hope so…)

So what are you looking forward to in 2015? Let me know…


New Great Expectations Adaptation.. and Dickensian ramblings..

So… I love Dickens. Yes, sometimes his novels are looong, winding chunky beasts with tons of characters and sub-plots, but he surely deserves recognition as one of the greatest writers in the English language. His novels are timeless classics and his depictions of various characters have become English institutions- what would Christmas be without Scrooge?

So, I am super excited about the new adaptation set to be shown on the BBC around Christmas of Great Expectations.. (Yes, I know this has been done lots of times- but I think we have room for some more Pip, Estella, Havisham and Magwitch in our lives…!) The casting looks perfect- Gillian Anderson (who did an amazing job as Lady Deadlock in the BBC version of Bleak House) is Miss Havisham, Ray Winstone is Magwitch (yes!), and David Suchet is Jaggers (yes, yes, yes!!) All lovers of Great Expectations will surely be thrilled about this new version (even if there are other neglected classics which the BBC should seriously think about adapting!)

The adaptation is part of the year-long celebrations for the bicentenary of Dickens’s birth in 2012. There are some amazing plans for 2012 across the country (and beyond!) with events, exhibitions, performances and festivals – looking at it all here I hardly know where to start with what I would like to attend! I will have to start planning..!! Be interesting to hear what other people are up to!

After completing my read of all the Sherlock Holmes books (one still left to go which I am holding back to save for my holiday!) I think I will turn to a reading (or re-reading) of all my Dickens favourites and the ones I haven’t yet got around to. I still have Bleak House, Little Dorrit, David Copperfield and Our Mutual Friend on my to-read pile so having a Dickens reading project would be a great motivator to get stuck into some of these!! One of my favourite novels is A Tale of Two Cities so that will definitely have to be on the list, along with Great Expectations.. What are other peoples favourites?

Also to highlight this interesting article about an online journal project looking for volunteers to edit content for ‘Dickens Journals Online’ – looks like a hugely beneficial project to spare some time for…!


New D H Lawrence Adaptation…

I am super excited for the new BBC4 adaptation of D H Lawrence’s Women in Love/ The Rainbow! It starts on Thursday 24th and is a two-part series which brings together the two novels. The cast looks fantastic, with Rosamund Pike, Rachael Stirling, Rory Kinnear and Joseph Mawle starring, so it should be a real treat for period drama fans! Pike and Stirling play Gudrun and Ursula, two sisters, who are the focus for the novel as it charts their lives and loves and their relationships with each other.

For anyone interested in the contextual backgroud of the novels, there was a really interesting article in the Guardian this weekend: The articles focuses on the novels treatment of women and how it subverted traditional Victorian stereotypes of femininity, and how in reading Lawrence we shouldn’t be put off by the connotations of his controversial, ‘highly-sexed’ image. Cusk’s article draws attention to all the reasons why Lawrence’s ‘provocative’ novels should be read by modern-day readers as “a subversive, transformative, life-altering act”.. I couldn’t agree more!!

So.. high hopes for the series..! Not sure how easy Lawrence is to transfer to the screen as often with his novels it is the elegance and poetry of his narrative rather than the plot which is the most striking, but we shall see..!! Definitely think I should put some Lawrence on me to-read list his year!

Jeremy Irons in “The Borgias”, New Renaissance Period Drama Series

In the grand tradition of ‘Rome’ and ‘The Tudors’, Showtime now brings us “The Borgias” – a new historical drama series based on the intrigues of the infamous Borgias dynasty set during the Italian Renaissance.

The show will be led by Jeremy Irons, who stars as Rodrigo, the patriarch of the Borgias family and newly appointed as Pope, and will focus on the machinations of him and his children in their quest for power and status. Charting their rise and fall in politics, the show is sure to be a scintillating account of Italian Renaissance life and with a cast including Derek Jacobi, Francois Arnaud and Colm Feore, it is bound to be a hit!  

I don’t have any extensive knowledge about the period this series is set in, but I am actually really excited about the shows release(!) and there is a great website that has loads of photos and information about the cast and what not here: 

Really can’t wait for the show to start..! Although in the mean time we have the gorgeous final series of The Tudors on our screens to keep us entertained and the various trailers that have been released…

The Many Faces of Mr Darcy

My recent post on the various actors who have graced our screens as Mr Rochester has inspired me to look at those who have taken on the role of Mr Darcy. Some fantastic actors have taken on the part, but who was the best? Darcy is perhaps one of the best loved fictional heros (or he is mine at any rate..!), and it takes something special to get the right mix of aloofness, haughtiness and aristocratic pride, whilst also showing his humour, warmth and vulnerability. It is that combination (mixed in with his dashing good looks and £10,000 a year!), which makes Darcy such a fantastic character.. and I think there have been quite a few actors who have got this just right…

Laurence Olivier was outstanding as Fitwilliam in the 1940 film version, starring alongside Greer Garson as Lizzy. I loved Olivier as Darcy despite the fact that admittedly the film is not completely true to Austen’s text. The costumes for example, aren’t exactly standard Georgian outfits(!) and the ending has a plot twist which I’m not sure Austen would have approved of (even though it’s actually quite entertaining). In spite of this though, I do think Oliver pulled off a good Darcy and his chemistry with Greer Garson was wonderful. He definitely set the standards high for the next generations of Darcy’s..

The BBC made a mini series of Pride and Prejudice in 1980, where David Rintoul played Darcy. I have only seen this series once, a couple of years ago and I wasn’t overly impressed generally. I think this is more to do with my constantly comparing it to the newer versions and the fact that it all seemed a little dated, rather than a reflection on the acting performances. Rintoul is actually quite a good Darcy; his performance is subtle and believable and I would definitely watch it again.

For me, the defining performance however (I know this may be cliched!) was Colin Firth’s in the 1995 BBC production. Andrew Davies is a wonderful writer and this adaptation stayed remarkably close to Austen’s text. Firth was the first Darcy I saw, and this probably is why I always compare other performances to his, but I do think he really captured everything that Darcy is. The lake scene, (whilst admittedly not being an Austen invention), was genius and the scenes with Lizzy at Pemberley are just fantastic- the chemistry between them is spot on, and the development of Darcy’s character (or Lizzy’s understanding of his character at any rate!) is played out wonderfully.

Almost ten years later then we have another performance by Martin Henderson as Darcy in the adapted version of the novel – Bride & Prejudice. This was a modern Bollywood remake of Austen’s text and is actually quite fun. Henderson’s Darcy is a bit too overly snobby for my tastes- I am not sure the character development is as good as in some of the other versions (probably largely down to the fact that it is under two hours long – I am spolit by these six hour BBC versions!)

A year later then we got Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy alongside Keira Knightley. Basing my judgement purely on the casting and performance of Darcy, I have to say, some great choices were made. Matthew has the right combination of haughty indifference with endearing shyness and vulnerability and the proposal scene is just gorgeously performed. It took me a while to come to the conclusion that I liked this version, but now I have seen it a few times, I have been converted.

Lastly then, was Eliot Cowan in the ITV mini-series Lost in Austen: another good performance, although perhaps again, the overbearing rude side to the character was a little overplayed. But then again, I suppose none of the other Darcy’s had to deal with their heroine telling them that she had had lots of boyfriends, and had even (horror of all horrors!) lived with another man…

There have been some other Darcy’s too, but I haven’t had the pleasure of viewing these adaptations as yet- I think most of them are pretty hard to get hold of. Any recommendations are as ever, are gratefully received!  I do believe there is definitely room for more Darcy portrayals in the world however.. It’s been FIFTEEN years since the last BBC version, so surely a remake is in order?! It’s hard actually to think of a perfect casting for a new Darcy – Richard Armitage springs to mind (but that’s largely down to my own obsession with him I think!)- anyone else have any suggestions?!

A weekend Lost in Austen…

For a while now I have had the ITV mini-series ‘Lost in Austen’ sat in my ‘to-watch’ pile. I missed it when it was aired, but had heard mixed reviews and so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.. Torn between lamenting any kind of ‘butchering’ of Austen’s characters whilst also being intrigued/generally excited about the plot premise. For anyone who hasn’t already seen it- the show was a four part mini series which sees a modern day girl (Amanda, played by the lovely Jemima Rooper), transported into the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice through a portal in her bathroom. Sounds kind of silly I know.. but come on, who wouldn’t love to find themselves suddenly thrown into a world occupied by Mr Darcy?!

Well, the answer is of course, not that simple.. Amanda finds herself thrown into the plot of her favourite novel, but not everything is as it seems.. The upshot is that we have a hilariously funny mash-up of all our beloved Austen characters- with plot twists ranging from Jane Bennets marriage to Collins (erlack!), Mr Wickham’s turning out to be a good guy (outrageous I know!) and even Miss Bingley coming out as a lesbian. Far-fetched it is, most assuredly, but also kind of wonderfully bizarre at the same time.

Casting is genius.. with Hugh Bonneville playing a fantastic Mr Bennet alongside a (feisty!) Alex Kingston as Mrs Bennet, Gemma Arterton as Lizzy Bennet (who finds herself enamoured with modern day technology and gets a job as a nanny)  and Eliot Cowan as everyone’s favourite fictional hero, Mr Darcy. Cowan is a great Darcy- pulling off the broody, rudely-arrogant-but-also-kind-of-endearing character whilst also not looking too shabby in his wet shirt and breeches a la Colin Firth.

In short therefore, the show was fun- a genuinely enjoyable romp which never took itself too seriously… It also posed the question- what would you do if you were suddenly teleported into your favourite novel and came face to face with a fictional hero like Darcy? Make him dive in the pool at Pemberley and parade his wet shirtedness infront of your every eyes? (I think so!)

Toby Stephens. Period.

I recently posted on Toby Stephens’ wonderful performance in the recent BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre, and that got me thinking about all the other period dramas he has been in.. (there are so so many!) What is it about this man that makes him so deliciously suited to practically every period..?!

I first spotted Toby in 1996 when he played Gilbert Markham in the BBC adaptation of Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall. He was just the perfect choice for this character! This is a lovely series (and great that Anne gets some screen time instead of just adapting Jane Eyre/Wuthering Heights-much as I love them!) I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn’t seen it!

In 1999 the lovely Mr Stephens starred alongside Ralph Fiennes in ‘Onegin’, an adaptation of Pushkin’s poem. Set in 19th Century Russia, Toby plays the idealistic young poet Lensky- I won’t give away the plot, but let’s just say it’s tragic.. A wonderful movie with a fab cast, I highly recommend this to Toby and Ralph fans alike.

Another series I can’t recommend highly enough is Cambridge Spies. This was a really clever series (and highly populated with dashing young actors – Rupert Penry Jones, Tom Hollander, Samuel West and of course the ever wonderful Toby.) Set in 1934 the series focused on the true story of four young Cambridge students who were recruited to be spies for Russia. Toby plays Kim Philby (his real-life wife also stars alongside him which is quite interesting!) and this is just Toby at his best. 😀

Films like Twelfth Night and The Great Gatsby also saw Toby strutting his stuff in some cracking period dramas, and another interesting (but perhaps slightly strange one?), is an early film “Photographing Fairies”. Set after WW1, Toby plays a photographer coping with the loss of his wife (with the help of a few fairies!) As I say, it is a bit weird at points, but Toby fans can happily overlook this I think..

Toby has also played some fantastic period villains.. a la Prince John in the BBC tv series Robin Hood, and Dodd in Sharp’s Challenge. There is something about his drawling sneer which just makes for perfect villianous viewing.

There are even more which I haven’t yet seen, but very much look forward to doing(!): Cousin Bette is a 1998 adaptation of Balzac’s novel; I haven’t read this either so not sure whether Toby has a big part but it definitely looks like it is worth a go! The Camomile Lawn is a really early series which Toby had a big part in (alongside a blonde(!) Lizzy Bennett, a.k.a. Jennifer Ehle) set just before WW2 and again I am tempted to view (I think you can watch this free on 4oD too which is a bonus!) Another interesting one is “The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey” set in 1857 focusing on the Indian fight against British rule. Toby plays William Gordon and it looks as though he has a big part(?)- would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen it if it is worth a view..?! But surely anything Toby is worth a view…?! 😛 (Can you tell I’m a fan yet..)

I am sure there are also lots, lots more.. but I think the above selection just illustrates how wonderfully versatile Toby is as an actor and how amazingly he is suited to the realm of period drama.

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