I was blown away by the BBC’s adaptation of Dicken’s Great Expectations – even my husband watched it, enthralled, and he never watches anything with even a hint of a toga or a bonnet. Beautifully shot, stunning cinemaphotography of the Fens, blissful acting – especially Gillian Anderson as Miss Haversham. And you’ve got to love Ray Winstone – there’s something about that gravelly voice of his that makes him compelling, whatever character he takes on. And he was a complex Magwitch.
This is the first Beeb costume drama I have enjoyed in a while. It did something exciting and contemporary with a novel that was always meant to be popular and current. (And what a stunning Pip, both man and boy.)
So this got me thinking about previous costume dramas that have stood the test of time, or just stayed with me over the years.
Our Friends in the North This definitely counts as ‘costume’ and was definitely dramatic. Who can forget Geordie walking away across the Tyne Bridge to Don’t Look Back in Anger? It caught such a chunk of Brisith culture, not just Northern, from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. It was big in every sense of the word. (And a future James Bond and Doctor Who in the cast.)
Pride and Prejudice – lots of bonnets, but brilliantly strong female characters that brought a whole new fanbase to Jane Austen (and Colin Firth).
The Camomile Lawn – So stylish and gorgeous… and a bit naughty
The Duchess of Duke Street – I remember this rags-to-riches story from childhood, watching it religiously with my mum.
Also, When the Boat Comes In.
And then later, as a teenager, I moved on to Tenko, still watching it with my mum every week and learning about the horrors of POW camps in WW2.
But the greatest ever costume drama, the one I can never forget and have watched over and over on video and DVD and never tire of, as it is so faithful to the book, is of course … Granada’s Brideshead Revisited.