BBC2 TV, 10/11 Jan 2012
The BBC continues to pound away at Charles Dickens 200th anniversary with an adaptation by Gwyneth Hughes of his famously unfinished last novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood (BBC2).
Those usually allergic to bonnets and cravats and curiously eccentric invented surnames might one to give this one a look; dark, Gothic, suspenseful, full of psychological twists made modern by Hughes re-interpretation bound up with drug addiction and stalking.
The Drood novel finishes with the mysterious disappearance and search for the insufferably over-privileged Edwin Drood Jnr. whom in this version you would understandably want to kill inside five minutes.
Crime writer Hughes pulled together all the strands of the manuscript and filled in a plot which made perfect Dickens; unusual last wills, missing keys, distant relatives from foreign shores, obsession, love rivalries, hidden motives and a violent storm. All in a slimline two hours over two nights.
A tremendous cast really the gold seal on this production. Freddie Fox kept Edwin sympathetic, Tamzin Merchant as fiance Rosa made a brave heroine; Sacha Dhawan and Amber Rose Revah, exuded goodness and passion as the Landless twins, strangers in a strange land. Rory Kinnear stole most of his scenes as Reverend Crisparkle, goodness and compassion shining through. Ever reliable Alun Armstrong, Julia McKenzie and Ron Cook made a classy Dickensian comic chorus line. David Dawson was excellent as wannabe-sleuth Bazzard and a splendid young Alfie Davis played filthy urchin Deputy (where would Dickens be without one?).
Full honours go to Matthew Rhys as John Jasper; choirmaster, opium-fiend and lust-filled stalker, through whose unreliable, drug-addled eyes we saw much of the action.
Director Diarmuid Lawrence (Desperate Romantics, Little Dorrit, Emma, South Riding) brought a noir style to Dickensian Cathedral Gothic, even if the 1000-watt arc-lights at back of the sets went a little over the top. SC
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, BBC2 TV
Director: Diarmuid Lawrence
Writer: Gwyneth Hughes adapting Charles Dickens
Cast: Matthew Rhys, Rory Kinnear, Freddie Fox, Tamzin Merchant, Alun Armstrong, Julia McKenzie, David Dawson, Ron Cook, Sacha Dhawan, Amber Rose Revah, Ian McNeice
Image: The Mystery of Edwin Drood, copyright BBC Enterprises 2012 (BBC Media Centre press pack)