Top positive review
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Enticing drama, superbly acted
on 29 January 2014
Thought I'd give this a try - I didn't catch its original showing in the late '80s - as it covers the year immediately preceding the outbreak of WW1, exactly 100 years ago. It is also 50 years since Priestley's original novel was first published, which gives part of the discordant tone to the drama; there's a hard streak of cynicism in the men, and a knowing sexuality in the women, that sits as more contemporary in feel than might be expected. Put most simply it's a year in the life of an inexperienced young man, working the music halls in 1913/1914 - superficially a golden age of theatre mirroring the sense of complacent contentment in the country at large, with the looming threats (cinema/the approaching conflict) encroaching.
The drama is tightly plotted, and the characterisations superb. Early Colin Firth, as the ubiquitous Richard Herncastle, catches the eye, battling his raging libido with a mix of naivety and pomposity fuelled by his ambitions as an artist; John Castle's sardonic and steely Uncle Nick gives compelling commentary to the illusions on the stage and the deceptions off it. It's also a nostalgic reminder of the leisurely and sumptuous multi-part ITV/Granada dramas of the 1980s, another lost empire!
Essential viewing for Firth fans, and enthusiastically recommended for lovers of TV drama series at their very best.