17 April 2007 | Psyche-8
Don't bother, it's not worth it
This is the worst adaptation of 'Mansfield Park' I have ever seen, even worse than the 1999 film version. I struggle to see how it could even be described as an 'adaptation', being only very (and I mean very) loosely based on Jane Austen's plot and characters. At best, this is 'inspired' by the story of 'Mansfield Park' and I'm sorry to say that it's barely recognisable to the original.
I like Billie Piper. I enjoyed her in 'Doctor Who' and do think she is an aspiring actress. However, I'm sorry to say that she is completely miscast as the lead in this, and when I first heard that she would be playing Fanny Price I thought it was a joke. What were the writers thinking? Billie is the polar opposite to her character, both in looks and sensibility. One reason why this novel is so difficult to adapt for a 21st century audience is that the character of the heroine is, by modern standards, incredibly dull. She's a product of the time in which she was written and is meant to be humble, pious, respectful and not in the least bit outspoken or inappropriate. Many modern adaptations feel the need to shake up the story and make Fanny Price more like Elizabeth Bennet which is exactly what they've done here. The writers have also completely disregarded issues of 18th century etiquette and fashion - Billie as Fanny runs around permanently bareheaded (which simply wouldn't have happened then, Fanny would have worn a bonnet in public) and with her hair all loose and flowing (which looks pretty but still wouldn't have happened in the 18th century - it would have been tied up and styled in some way).
But essentially it's the plot that I objected to - where was it? Nothing happened. Also, I'm guessing this must have been a budget adaptation as they could clearly only afford to buy one set. Every happened either in the sitting room or the garden. The ball that is thrown in Fanny's honour in the book is here transformed into a summer picnic on the lawn. In addition, a key event in the story involves Fanny going back to Portsmouth to visit her parents, something that makes her realise that perhaps life at Mansfield Park is not so bad in comparison with where she would have otherwise grown up, and that helps her to discover a sense of her own identity. In this adaptation, Fanny is simply left home alone at Mansfield while the rest of the family go off somewhere, which merely results in her feeling (shock horror) lonely and rejected and viewers like me suspecting that the producers didn't have much money. What was the point of that? Bravo Blake Ritson. You were the best thing in this and were the only one who bared a passing resemblance to the character you were playing. Other than that, it looks pretty, Billie Piper puts in a spirited performance and it's not unlike 'Cinderella' in many ways. Kids and young teenagers would probably love it, but anyone aged about 15 and over, with even a slight acquaintance with Jane Austen's work would do well to avoid.