19 November 2007 | alfa-16
If you thought that North and South 2004, Bleak House 2005 and Jane Eyre 2006 were heroic steps forward in period adaptation you are absolutely going to adore this. I'm hoping, on the strength of the first episode, that we may be about to ascend new heights.
Liberties are taken. The material is being reinterpreted for the screen with a dashing disrespect for fidelity that is bound to offend those critics who watch screen adaptations with their Everyman edition on their knee but what Thomas has done here is bring the spirit of Gaskell and the humour of the age (specifically northern humour), magnificently to life.
Eileen Atkins' performance alone will carry this series to every Award ceremony worthy of attention but there is so much more you may be left agape with wonder or clapping your hands with glee at the stories surrounding Cranford's womenfolk, many condemned to spinsterhood by the Napoleonic Wars. And there's much more still to come.
You won't see the novel reassembled piece by piece, but what you'll get instead is a mordant, hilarious, moving, masterpiece of the art of adaptation and a brilliant cast extracting every last every drop of juice from the fruit (sucked separately, of course).
Cranford is vibrantly alive and kicking as it never has been before. Bring on the rest. If you please.