Little Dorrit by BBC 2009

This adaptation was first aired October and December 2008 in the U.K. It was written by Andrew Davies, and featuring a great case of Claire Foy, Freema Agyeman, Bill Paterson, Andy Serkis, Matthew Macfadyen, Tom Courtenay, Judy Parfitt, Arthur Darvill, Russell Tovey, Janine Duvitski, James Fleet, Ruth Jones, Eve Myles, Mackenzie Crook, Stephane Cornicard, Anton Lesser, Alun Armstrong, Sue Johnston, Emma Pierson and Amanda Redman.

Little Dorrit was serialised by Charles Dickens between 1855 and 1857. It is a personal journey in many ways as much of Dickens’ satire is focused on the debtors’ prison, The Marshalsea where the his own father, John Dickens had been imprisoned.

Arthur Clennam returns to London to see his mother following the death of his father with whom he has spent the last twenty years in China.

As he died his father gave Arthur a watch with the inscription D N F (Do Not Forget). It was a message but who for?

Arthur shows it to his mother, Mrs Clennam who is a stern and harsh  religious fanatic. She blows a fuse and the Clennam’s become estranged.

William Dorrit has been imprisoned as a debtor for a very long time, his three children have Fanny who is snobbish, Edward or Tip is bone idle and Amy or ‘Little Dorrit’ have all grown up in the surroundings of the prison.

It is only Amy who is devoted to her father and has work to just about financially support them.

Arthur heads off to London to see up with his former fiancée Flora Finching who has apparently donned a ton of weight and comes across as a simpering fool.

Mrs Clennam apparently paralysed and a wheelchair user runs the family business with the help of her snide servant Flintwinch and his poor downtrodden wife Affery played here by the brilliant Alun Armstrong and Sue Johnston.

Mrs Clennam employs Little Dorrit as a seamstress and oddly shows her  kindness which makes Arthur wonder she in some way may be connected with the mystery of the watch. With an idea that his mother may have had something to do with the downfall of the Dorrits Arthur follows the Amy to the Marshalsea and decides to find the source of Willaims debt at the chaos that is the Circumlocution Office, however it is the Circumlocution Office that offers Arthur a new start in the shape of an inventor and business partner Daniel Doyce.

Little Dorrit falls for Arthur who misses the signals. Then Arthur discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune and he is finally able to pay his way out of prison.

The Dorrits are out and William takes his now respectable family on a tour of Europe as all such families do but they carry a snobbish an air of conceit with their new-found wealth.

William Dorrit dies in Rome and his distraught brother Frederick also passes away and Amy is left alone and returne to Lodnon to live with Fanny and Edward Sparkler her new husband.

Edmund Sparkler’s stepfathers fraud leads to the collapse of Merdle’s bank taking with it the monies of both the Dorrits and Arthur Clennam who now finds himself imprisoned in the Marshalsea. Whilst there he falls ill but Amy is there to hold his hand and nurse him back to health.

Meanwhile a French villain called Rigaud is now in London and discovers that Mrs Clennam has been hiding the fact that Arthur is not her real son, and Rigaud tries to blackmail her, not the easiest thing in the world but Rigaud is ably played by the talented Andy Sirkis

Mrs Clennam has been suppressing her knowledge that Amy is the heiress to an enormous fortune and estate and you will have to watch the rest to see what happens!

It is a great production as ever by the BBC.

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The Mystery of Edwin Drood BBC1

Charles Dickens made it (roughly) halfway through this intriguing tale of love and murder  before he died.

There have been many thoughts as to who the killer was over the years so it was good to see what I considered a coherent ending to Dickens unfinished symphony.

The story is set in Cloisterham, a Rochester in Kent from Dickens childhood, a place that he loved and went back to time and again in his novels.

The novel really spends time focusing on John Jasper, that is Edwin Drood Jnr’s uncle. Drood has been in his uncles care since his father died, Edwin looks up to (who he calls Jack) Jasper who looks upon him as a son. But Jasper is a drug addict and the story opens with him in an opium den and this is where we start with this adaptation.

Dickens was in fact dying when he was writing this and it is very dark and portrayed as so on screen. Jasper dreams of killing Drood from the off and we encounter his opium dream and the strangling of Drood with his own scarf in a Cathedral…very dark indeed and as the story continues we find that the choir master is really an uber-stalker fixated on Drood’s fiancée Rosa Bud and not the pious individual he would have people believe especially after throwing an urchin around in the church yard, not really the done thing for a man loosely connected to the cloth!

Rosa and Drood split and in a laudanum induced frenzy Jasper kills Drood…or does he?

I didn’t think so as it was far too obvious and we learn that Edwin Drood Senior is alive but Jasper can’t remember what he has done and only that he has killed someone. jasper tries his hardest to incriminate (from Ceylon)  Neville Landless and then decides to embark a rather scary campaign to seduce the Rosa by any cruel means necessary.

Of course we still have no body!

and you will just have to watch it on the BBC Iplayer to find out what happens but I genuinely enjoyed this adaptation, Matthew Rhys, Freddie Fox and Alun Armstrong were great…and a worthy edition to the many of Dickens Adaptations.