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Drawing on her love of theatre and art, New Zealand novelist Ngaio Marsh created elegant crime-puzzlers full of quirky characters with hidden agendas, all brought meticulously to life in this BBC series.
This British series ran on PBS in the late '80s and stars Barbara Murray and Norman Rodway as Lydia and Charles Brett, theatre stars in London in the 1920s and 30s. Indeed, their whole family is involved in theatre and includes outrageous Martha (Belinda Lang), sullen Edwin (David Yelland), serious Tom the writer (George Winter), and young Perdita (Sally Cookson). Then there are Charles' actor parents (Frank Middlemass and Helenea McCarthy)as well.
In 19 episodes, the stories deal with life in the theatre but also the coming of sound to the movies and the various relationships between all the main characters as well as their servants.
Some of the story lines are weak (like the Irish political stuff) but most are on target. Charles is a vain and stubborn man who overshadows Edwin on the stage, but Edwin (equally vain and stubborn) becomes a hit in movies. Lydia is a musical comedy star and plays peacekeeper at home. Martha is rather outrageous on stage and also in her personal life with a string on scandals linked to her name. Then there's Tom with all his writer angst.
The period sets and clothes are perfect and so are the various old cars. There's lots of old music and references to contemporary stars. It's all very well done.
Barbara Murray and Norman Rodway are excellent as Lydia and Charles, but I'm not sure if Belinga Lang as Martha doesn't steal the show.
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