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Review: Parade's End

November 18, 2015

I've just finished watching the BBC production of 'Parade's End', starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall - and I'm completely in love with it. I have to confess, I embarked upon it simply because it was roughly connected with the period that I was emulating in my writing and I thought that I might pick up a couple of ideas from it. But then I saw that the screenplay was written by Tom Stoppard, and I sat up and took notice.

 

I'm a great fan of Stoppard's work, and here he puts all his considerable skills to adapting Ford Madox Ford's complicated tetraology of novels (or at least three quarters of it). In any lesser hands it wouldn't have worked. The story covers a lot of ground, stretched over many years, necessitating some very quick scene changes, and some leapfrogging through events. But Stoppard's writing carries it off with concise aplomp, whilst still retaining a playful humour. And the humour is surprising given that the central character (as played with startling pathos by Cumberbatch) is really quite repressed. This could have resulted in a rather claustrophobic atmosphere, but fortunately Christopher Tietjens, the 'Last Tory' is balanced by Rebecca Hall's wonderful, scene stealing portrayal of his merciless wife, Sylvia. I found the complexities and contradictions in her character so fascinating that I'll probably steal them for one of my own creations some day.

 

The big problem now is that I so enjoyed the television version that I know the books will probably be a disappointment in comparison.

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