Cranford Review: Lights, Camera…Period Drama

December 19, 2009 by  
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cranford300CRANFORD: Sunday 20th December, BBC1, 9pm ALERT ME

Thus far its been a relatively stop-start winter for period drama, but the BBC are ratcheting up the Victoriana as the festive season approaches.

Following the successful 2007 series based on Mrs Gaskell’s novels, we are returning to the small Cheshire town and in this first of two feature-length episodes, we find that although the local bonnet maker is still doing a roaring trade, there have been a few changes in Cranford.

You might think that these stoical ladies might be glad to see a bit of public transport after decades of nothing but horse and cart, yet they are as unhappy about the encroaching railway as ever – and now its only five miles away!

Needless to say there is soon a bit of trouble with some oily workmen in the local pub and before one can say ‘class conflict’ the local women are up in arms.

However there are some new arrivals of a more respectable nature in the village. Jonathan Pryce (playing exactly the same fusty role as he did in Pirates of the Caribbean) and a widow with a son and daughter in tow turn up to give the lovable spinsters some fresh subject matter.

This remains a real jewel of the holiday schedule for the BBC (the concluding episode is on Sunday 27th December) and the allure of this programme seems to have endured nearly as well as the unmarried principles who dither and snob beautifully.

Imelda Staunton is wonderfully twee as the bold and gossipy Miss Pole, but as always Judi Dench leads the cast by perfectly capturing the rigid essence of the era as she gasps her way from one petty scandal to the next.