Way back on Boxing Day Dickensian aired on BBC One. Two months and twenty half-hour episodes later and I am now mourning its loss.
The concept for the series is a great one. A collection of the most beloved Charles Dickens characters are all rolled into one, living on the same street enjoying a pint in The Three Cripples (originally from Oliver Twist). We meet Miss Havisham (Tuppence Middleton) in happier times, a miserable Scrooge (Ned Dennehy) before he is visited by his ghosts and see a slightly softer side to the notorious brute Bill Sikes (Mark Stanley).
Indeed, the show’s casting is one of its greatest merits. Each of the thirty beloved Dickens characters that are translated onto the screen are brought to life by note-perfect performances. Richard Ridings and Caroline Quentin are delightful as Mr. and Mrs. Bumble and provide much appreciated comic relief to this dark series. Tom Weston-Jones is deliciously sinister as the charismatic con-artist, Meriwether Compeyson that book fans will remember as the man who jilts Miss Havisham at the altar. Meanwhile, whether you know your Oliver Twist from the novel or the 1960s musical (in my case the latter) you will surely not be disappointed by Anton Lesser (Fagin), Mark Stanley (Bill Sikes) and Bethany Muir (Nancy) who step effortlessly into their character’s shoes.
But before you write this off as something reserved for Dickens fans, its time I confess that the only novel of his I have read is Great Expectations and I found it excruciatingly boring! Yet as it happens, Dickensian’s take on Great Expectations, in which we are introduced to a young, highly ambitious and optimistic Amelia Havisham, was my favourite story on the show. But if this tale isn’t to your liking, there are plenty of others such is the beauty of shows like this.
With acclaimed television writer Tony Jordan at the helm, Dickensian is a period drama for the 21st Century. It may take a few episodes to warm up, but once it does it is packed with excitement, mystery and nail-biting cliff-hangers and all revolved around a set of incredibly intriguing characters.