Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Review of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood

Written by Charles Dickens And Gwyneth Hughes
Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence

John Jasper (to Reverend Septimus Crisparkle, re Edwin): “Let the man who killed him hear my vow – I devote myself to his destruction.”

Destruction is an apt word and almost one that sums up this entire piece. The Mystery Of Edwin Drood is one of the lesser adapted of Charles Dickens’s work and given that it was his final and incomplete story, we’ll never know how the great man intended to end the piece but Gwyneth Hughes certainly does a fine job in offering her own interpretation on how this particular story should’ve ended, one that I actually found satisfactory for a multitude of reasons.

As a character, there are many things that can be said about choirmaster John Jasper but the one thing he definitely cannot be accused of is being boring and even if he had been a rather dull character, Matthew Rhys sure as hell breathed enough life into him for the duration of the story.

In both parts, John Jasper managed to be a morally repugnant and oddly sympathetic character to a certain extent. His moral repugnance stemmed from the obvious of course – that psychotic fixation he had for Rosa Bud and the relentless attempts he made in order to get her affection, even taking an odd pleasure when she finally admitted that she could never love him. Of course, these were words that Jasper did not take heed to all that much.

His sociopathic hatred for his nephew Edwin certainly didn’t help matters either but the mystery here was that Jasper killed an Edwin but not his nephew. The Edwin he had murdered had been the father that disowned him as a boy and cared nothing for him as an adult.

I have to admit that given the bits I generally knew of the story, it was a rather surprising and interesting twist for the story to run with. Making the younger Edwin then a sibling rather than a nephew for Jasper made his exasperation over believing that he had murdered his brother all the more wrenching as well. I told that you that in the second half of this update that Jasper is given moment where sympathy could be laid at his feet.

As for the opium addled scenes, I wish we had seen the blue elementals but I loved the moderation of those scenes. They helped with John losing grip with reality without feeling overly gratuitous to the story itself. I won’t actually spoil what fate befell John Jasper in the final five minutes of this story but let’s say it’s one that made sense within the context of this adaptation and leave it at that.

As for the rest of the characters – a tremendous support cast here. I did love Rosa and her guardian, the good Reverend and his mother as well as brother and sister duo, Neville and Helena Landless, whose roles in this whole part were pretty prominent while other supporting characters like Princess Puffer, Grewgious, Durdles and Bazzard also added to the mix. I did find myself a little annoyed with Freddie Fox’s depiction of Edwin but he improved in the second half of the story so only the young boy with his super thick cockney rhyming grated in an otherwise excellent production.

- This was the third Dickens adaptation to air in the last month and was definitely the best of the three. I’m glad it aired on BBC2 instead of BBC4.
- I have to admit after seeing this; I know a certain actor I want to see as the Master in another show I watch.
- There was a lot of replaying over the younger Edwin’s ‘death’ scene during this. It did help cement Jasper’s loss of grip on reality though.
- The scenes in the tombs and the cathedral were definitely some of the most atmospherically shot scenes of the two parter.

Making this into a two hour long episode story did wonders for The Mystery Of Edwin Drood. It kept the story and made sure there was no dragging and the performances were excellent. I mean Matthew Rhys was on fine form as Jasper but the likes of Tamzin Merchant, Rory Kinnear and Alun Armstrong were also wonderful. An excellent adaptation – wonderful stuff, BBC2.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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