Monday, October 27, 2008

Little Dorrit

There's this great skit on one of Eddie Izzard's older DVDs where he imagines the meeting that led to young singer Arnold Dorsey being persuaded to take on a pseudonym by his manager.

"Cuthelbert Bushtywank, Fringleson Hoopdeflip, Engelbert Humperdinck, Slipteburt Scrotedewhip - "
"Hang on, hang on, go back one!"

I like to think that Charles Dickens had bits of paper with long lines of ridiculous-yet-brilliant names scratched out and one circled enthusiastically. There's always one in his books, and they're almost always evil. In Little Dorrit, it's Jeremiah Flintwinch, and oooh, he's evil.
The problem with Dickens adaptations is that it always takes forever to introduce everyone, and it's always a game of Spot The Face for two or three episodes before things calm down. Alun Armstrong, Ron Cook, Mark Williams and Tom Courtenay are all in this one, but they don't count because they're in everything. Armstrong is in everything so much, that he's actually in this twice - he's playing Jeremiah, and as it turns out he's got a twin named Ephraim (which is almost as good a name). Then we've got Sue Johnston, Matthew Macfayden, Maxine Peake, Freema "'ere it's Martha out of Doctor Who" Agyeman, James Fleet, and loads more to come yet if Wikipedia's cast list is telling truths. And Andy Serkis, who should be in everything.

One of the great things about Dickens is everyone is either a) a fairly well-sketched character, which allows some proper costume drama stiff-upper-lip acting or b) a bonkers caricature, which allows some validated scenery-chewing. The former so far appears to consist pretty much only of Macfayden and the excellent Claire Foy as the titular Amy, but they both acquit themselves well. Of the gleeful hamminess of everyone else, special mentions must go to Armstrong, who punctuates every third step with a vicious growl; Johnston, who summons her inner dormouse as Armstrong's wife; and Serkis, who plays a flamboyant, psychotic French murderer with a big fake nose and beard and flappy cape and does it the only way that is right and proper - with lots of exaggerated gestures and a glorious overdone accent.

Proper British telly, done the proper British way. Almost makes you want to put up with TV Licensing. (But not quite.)

1 comment:

TeamSmithy said...

Going back through my step-dad's family tree you find some names that would put Dickens to shame. The only one I can remember right now is Mary Christmas, because well, Mary Chrismas!