Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dark and chilling but there's something missing

from  Part one of the Beeb's three-part adaptation of Great Expectations which aired on Tuesday evening.

So dark, and chilling, just as Dickens intended. The setting was suitably dank and misty, and one could almost smell the damp and rot in Satis House (filmed at Holdenby House in Northamptonshire), as well as the mud and sodden vegetation out on the marshes (filmed near Tollesbury in Essex.)

In addition to the carefully chosen locations, there was wonderful acting from Oscar Kennedy and Douglas Boot, playing Pip the boy and older youth; Ray Winston as Magwich (Winston insisted on performing all his own stunts as Magwitch, which meant him spending hours caked in mud, while filming escape and fight scenes on the Essex marshes), Shaun Dooley (attended two courses on blacksmithing)  as Joe Gargery, David Suchet as the secretive lawyer Jaggers, and Gillian Anderson as a youthful, emaciated and self-harming Miss Havisham. Before viewing, I was very anti-Anderson in the role, believing an American could not prortray the bitter, twisted, English woman. Gentle Reader, I was wrong.

The first episode has been criticised for its lack of humourous touches, but I, for one, never saw the humour in those dark opening chapters. The scene in which Miss Havisham pays for Pip's apprenticeship to Joe was as painful to watch. as it is to read.

So just what is missing from this adaptation?  It's Biddy ( Pip's conscience and foil to Estella).  Without her, Part two did not live up to the promise engendered in Part one, nor did the story of Joe and Mrs Gargery make sense. And I have yet to understand why Biddy was written out of the screenplay at all. 

Quite how Part three will manage with out her, I do not know.