The Casual Vacancy- Episode 1

 

Whenever a Rowling is adapted, be it for the big or small screen, the media bandwagon goes into overdrive, digging up details and making predictions daily. Critics will wait with bated breath to condemn both the production and the story upon which it is based, purely to decry the most successful writer of our time (no one likes a success story after the glitter fades).

Any die-hard Tory-lovers may find the politics of the contemporary parable a little liberal for their taste- but my lefty self hopes it will prove a palate cleanser to those that way inclined. I know. How bad of me.

The first episode of the episode opens upon the picturesque Pagford- all stone masonry, weeping willows and lipsticked smiths, beneath which lie grotesque characters oozing to escape the respectable restraints onto the well worn cobbles. After the untimely death of the lone village good-guy, it’s uncertain whether anyone will fight for the rights of Pagford’s less affluent residents

The all-star ensemble cast boasts Michael Gambon (*cough* Dumbledore) as Howard- the wheeler-dealer snob, and, before his untimely death causes the council vacancy for which series is named, Rory Kinnear. The expansion of Kinnear’s ‘Barry’ (no, not Harry) for the adaptation was clever- the hole left by the parish paragon is thus painfully obvious on screen.Yet whilst there are many strong turns by our thespian elite, some of the famous names are less, shall we say, magical. Performances by Keeley Hawes and Julia Mckenzie veer towards the stereotypes which Rowling is attempting to undercut, the latter performer seeming to emulate the hateful Umbridge in her portrayal- a children’s fantasy villain a little out of place in middle England. Yet perhaps these characters are simply yet to bloom

The real stars of this piece are the lesser known performers, whose names may not ring bells but whose performances steal scenes. Abigail Lawrie is both gritty and heart-wrenching as the impoverished Krystal, guarding her sad existing with swear words and swagger, when her family and very existence is being town apart through drugs and poverty.

Emily Bevan’s grieving widow is also truly harrowing- her portrayal is honest and brutal in its simplicity- a scene which particularly begs acknowledgement is her viewing of the wizard of oz- each word mouthed along with Judy Garland provokes both smiles and sadness in equal measure- unlike the tin man this actress truly has a functioning aorta.

Richard Glover (Simon Price)deserves mention as a Voldemortian Bully, small man hissing quiet cruelties taking those weaker than himself apart piece by bloody piece. Beautifully & slitheringly sinister

The adaptation has created claustrophobia of camera angles tears and sweat, a cast that is more diamond than rough, and a script which thus far does credit to its source. Overall I am optimistic about episode two- the book might always be better, but Rowling is used to that.

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