World War II was if nothing else, a game-changer. While the men were at war, women had career opportunities that were previously denied to them.
The television series, The Bletchley Circle (2012-2014) followed five former employees of Bletchley Park. Millie (Rachael Stirling), Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), Jean (Julie Graham), Lucy (Sophie Rundle), and Alice (Hattie Morahan) whose job was to help win the war. Now that the men have come home, the women have returned to the traditional roles of wives and mothers. But that does not mean that the skills they used during that time have completely faded into the background. When a serial killer leaves a trail of bodies behind, the women come together to find who this person is and stop them.
I wanted to like the series. It had all of the elements of a program I would love: the era, the performers, a female-driven detective narrative. But it was unfortunately bored rather quickly and turned it off. Whatever hook exists to keep viewers coming back was lost on me.
There is nothing so wonderful (at least from my perspective) as settling down on a Sunday night and knowing that the programming on Masterpiece Theater/Mysteries will help with the realization that the weekend is over.
Grantchester picks up just a few months after series 2 ended. The bromance/murder solving duo of Vicar Sydney Chambers (James Norton) and Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) are back together again. But while Sydney and Geordie deal with the crimes that are happening in and around Grantchester, Sydney has another thing on his plate: his relationship with Amanda Hopkins (Morven Christie). Amanda is heavily pregnant and in the midst of divorcing her husband. While they are happily ensconced in finally being together, the storm of Amanda’s soon to be ended marriage and impending motherhood creates more than one barrier to their own version of happily ever after.
My Mother And Other Strangers takes place in Northern Ireland during World War II. Rose and Michael Coyne (Hattie Morahan and Owen McDonnell) have a full life of kids, work and just being busy. The war has yet to intrude into their world. It comes in the form of American servicemen, Captain Dreyfuss (Aaron Staton) and Lieutenant Barnhill (Corey Cott). Captain Dreyfuss seems to be paying more attention to Rose than her husband while Lieutenant Barnhill is interested in 16-year-old Emma Coyne (Eileen O’Higgins). The story is narrated by an adult Francis (Rose and Michael’s son). Ciaran Hinds tells the story in voice over flashback as an adult while 10-year-old Francis is played by Michael Nevin.
I’ve enjoyed Grantchester since the first season. Cop procedural shows tend to get a little boring when the only thing that the audience sees is inside the squad room or investigating the scene of a crime. Grantchester adds to this bland story by making the characters human and allowing the audience to see the lives and struggles of the characters outside of work. I was attracted to My Mother And Other Strangers because of the cast and how compelling the series seemed based off the trailer. The problem is that it is a little boring and it has yet to completely hook me in.
Do I recommend them? I say yes to Grantchester and maybe to My Mother And Other Strangers.
The latest addition to Masterpiece Mystery is Arthur and George. Arthur Conan Doyle (Martin Clunes) is at a crossroads in his life. His wife had just died, there are rumors that he had an affair with a female friend, Jean Leckie (Hattie Morahan) and he is completely lost. The case of George Edalji (Arsher Ali) might just turn him around. George is the product of an Anglo/Indian marriage. His career as a solicitor has been completely ruined when he went to jail for mutilating local animals and writing obscene letters. Recently released from jail, George is looking to return to his previous life.
Called to George’s case by his secretary, Alfred “Woodie” Wood (Charles Edwards) Arthur agrees to take the case. Is George guilty of the accusations or is the real culprit still out there?
Beyond the bromance of Arthur and Woodie and the standard whodunit story, there are interesting elements. There is the life changing experience of loosing your spouse and the harshness of racism. There is also the question of reputation, especially in the Edwardian era, when one’s reputation was everything.
Fans of British television and Masterpiece will recognize several of the principal actors. Martin Clunes (Doc Martin), Hattie Morahan (Sense and Sensibility) and Charles Edwards (Downton Abbey) have all graced our screens before. The problem is that I found most of the first episode to be boring. It was only within the last ten minutes of the program did I feel like I was finally getting into the story.
Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel. Writing under the pseudonym of “a lady”, Sense and Sensibility is the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. When their father passes away, their elder brother inherits the family estate, Norland Park. Knowing that Norland Park is no longer their home, Elinor and Marianne, with their mother and younger sister Margaret are forced to find a new home and make a new life elsewhere.
As I did with the other novels, I’m going to compare and contrast the most recent adaptations.
Cast: Elinor (Emma Thompson), Marianne (Kate Winslet), Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) and John Willoughby (Greg Wise) .
Pro’s: Directed by Ang Lee, with a screenplay by Emma Thompson, the 1995 movie retains Austen’s voice as a writer. It is a charming movie, for both the general movie fan and the ardent Janeite. Greg Wise looks awful good in breeches.
Cons: Let’s face it, as good as an actress and a screenwriter Emma Thompson is, she was far from 19 when this movie was made. Elinor is still a teenager, regardless of the actress stepping into her shoes.
Cast: Elinor (Hattie Morahan), Marianne (Charity Wakefield), Colonel Brandon (David Morrisey), Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens) and John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper).
Pro’s: With a screenplay written by Andrew Davies and the younger characters played by a whose who of young British actors, this adaptation has a lot going for it. Davies fleshes out secondary story lines that that makes the primary story line vibrant and alive. I also like is that the cast is age appropriate.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that certain stories are meant to live forever, re-visited and introduced again and again to audiences.
Such is Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece, A Doll’s House, presently at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music until March 23rd.
Nora and Torvald Helmer (Hattie Morahan and Dominic Rowan, Elinor Dashwood in the 2008 Sense and Sensibility and Mr. Elton in the 1996 Kate Beckinsale Emma, for my fellow Janeites) have been married for nine years. The play opens just before Christmas, Torvald is waiting for a promotion to bank manager, which will mean a raise. His wife, Nora, appears to be flighty and somewhat dimwitted.
The arrival of Nora’s childhood friend, Kristine Linde (Caroline Martin) reveals that Nora is much more than she appears. Early into her marriage, Torvald became sick. Following doctors orders, they traveled to Italy where the warm weather was recommended to improve Torvald’s health. Unbeknownst to her husband, Nora took out a loan which she is secretly paying off and has not told him. One of her husband’s employees, Nils Krogstad (Nick Fletcher) knows that he will be out for a job very soon and tries to use the unpaid loan to get his job back.
This play is amazing. Morahan is perfect for Nora and Rowan is equally as perfect as Torvald. The tension is there from the moment that it starts. The audience knows Nora’s secret and we all know that it will only be a matter of time before Torvald finds out. The slamming of the door at the final moments of play reverberated throughout the theater.
I’ve heard of this play, but I’ve never seen it. I hope to see it next time it comes my way.