Great Expectations

1 January 2012

Even my costume drama hating husband enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Great Expectations that was shown over three nights last week. This is saying a great deal as he really isn’t a fan of Dickens, but I maintain that he would be if he would only give it a fair chance.

It was a good series and made me very reminiscent for the happy days of old when the BBC used to show serialised classics on Sunday evenings after Songs of Praise. Remember them? I wish they’d start doing that again.

As you may expect for a three parter based on a VERY BIG book, a lot was missing from Great Expectations and what was left was rearranged and changed quite extensively. However, the bare bones of Pip’s story were left intact and what remained was a rather sepia toned and gloomy period piece that had precious little of Dickens’ trademark humour and character driven drama left. No matter though as it was still an enjoyable feast for the eyes.

Douglas Booth, the young actor who played the older Pip has received a lot of criticism for being too good looking but I rather liked his stiff, uncertain, pouty Pip who looked equally ill at ease both at town and amongst his own people in the marshes. Oscar Kennedy, who played him as a child was especially impressive though with a really haunting quality and a clearly budding ability to act older and more experienced thespians off the screen. I expect we will be seeing a lot more of them both from now on.

Most praise should be reserved for Gillian Anderson’s ghostly, wispy, dessicated Miss Havisham (and in particular her truly moving final scene) and Ray Winstone’s touching Magwitch. I’m a big fan of Ray Winstone though (yes, even his Henry VIII).

The actress who played Estella was good too – I don’t agree with critics who complained that she wasn’t pretty enough for the part and instead thought she was rather beautiful and had all of Estella’s brittle fragility and self assurance.

It was also nice to see Syon and Holdenby, both old haunts of mine all gothed up and suffused in mist and decaying misery.

If you like your Dickens with a not so very healthy dollop of consumptive chic and washed out melancholy then this will be right up your street. Have you seen it? What did you think?