A first rate cast- this deserves to be released on video at least!
This production attempts to efface the Hollywood version of more than thirty years before. Arthur Lowe and Martin Jarvis are wonderfully effective as Wilkins Micawber and Uriah Heep - avoiding too close a resemblance to W.C. Fields and Roland Young. Mrs Micawber is hilariously overblown, played by Patricia Routledge, and Patience Collier, the battily eccentric Aunt Betsey Trotwood, seems to live the part. In fact Patience Collier seems to have stepped straight out of the 19th century. Her magnificent impatience with Heep and her stoicism in the face of adversity are beautifully modulated. Not to be forgotten, Liz Smith as Mrs Heep. Though she and Steerforth's mother are socially poles apart, they both have the same obsessive and overindulgent relationships with their sons, which Diskens identifies as a source of evil. While Mrs Heep is more venal in simply being overborne by her son's dishonesty, Mrs Steerfoth has covered up a truly nast piece of domestic violence and pays the penalty daily by having the scourge of Rosa Dartle at her elbow. This Dickens portrait of family life is seldom seen in dramatisations. Mrs Steerforth (Sheila Keith) and Rosa Dartle (Jacqueline Pearce)- brought out a feature of the book which is often glossed over in productions because studios want to make it family viewing. This series didn't make that mistake although it was designed for Sunday teatime viewing. The sado-masochistic relationship between Rosa Dartle and Steerforth (and, to some extent his mother) and the suggestion of prepubescent homosexual attachment of David to Steerforth are implied. In fact, the scenes between Rosa and Steerforth/Mrs Steerforth, and between David and James Steerforth are where both the book and this production rwally talk to adults. A BBC dramatisation that ought to be better remembered.
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