Monday, November 19, 2007


Cranford the place is a little northern town, occupied mainly by women, where nothing much happens, but where everyone is infinitely concerned with the little events that do occur - meaning Judi Dench's character Miss Matty Jenkyns can say, without a hint of sarcasm: "It is all go in Cranford!" Everyone is stuck in their ways and so are completely thrown into a state of near-hysteria when three newcomers arrive in the town.

Every single performance, from Philip Glenister to Imelda Staunton's gossipy Miss Pole, is masterly, but the star of the show is Miss Deborah Jenkyns, and her real-life counterpart Eileen Atkins. Miss Deborah is, on first look, rather stern and overly concerned with appearances - when she is astounded by Mary's suggestion that they suck the juice out of oranges, she states that they should all "repair to our rooms and consume our oranges in solitude." What a line. We may think that she is the staunchest defender of the Cranford way of life, but ultimately she turns out to be the most willing to change when something bigger - like humanity and charity - is at stake. A hero, in other words.

This drama is quirky, moving, funnier than most 'comedies' on TV this year, and focuses on all inhabitants of Cranford, from the poorest of the poor on the outskirts, to the lady of the nearest country house, still haunted by memories of the French reign of terror. It screams quality, and is yet another reason why we should all be thankful for Auntie Beeb.


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I can't say I wanted to like it but I stuck not that many minutes before I started screaming "turn over!" For me it was like trying to watch slapstick - I feel too much for the anguish and frustration of characters to be able to watch them suffer. I got as far as the doctor trying to order candles and felt every nerve in my body wincing in agony as the polite shopkeeper explained with great enthusiasm for the quality of his service that he could order them and have them by Friday...

I can recognise the quality but couldn't cope to watch it myself. Sorry!

AnnaWaits said...

What an excess of empathy you have m'dear! I prescribe reading lots and lots of 18th century sentimental literature until you're sick to death of it ;)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Yep, excess of empathy! that's me. I just felt everything inside me clench at the reactions, the gossip, the embarrassments, the 'social faux pas', the desperate attempts to not cause offence (I was nearly crying for the sight of the girl trying to read by one candle's light), the sheer accommodation of polite expectations even though it was both dangerous (the poor handyman ordered up a tree on his own so finances would not be stretched) or short-sighted (what life would the handyman have if he suvived but could have no livelihood?). i know these things were all the point(s) Gaskell was making but each word, gesture, frustration was like a knife to my heart and gut.

I sometimes wonder if I'm a tad too sensitive for the 'real world'...!