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Recently I've been wondering if the BBC was losing its knack for well-acted, insightful drama. Watching this show has re-affirmed my trust that my license fee is being spelt well.
The mini-series follows three people in the Midnight Bell pub in the 1930s (not the 1940s as another person said. The Book was published in 1935) Bob, a waiter, Ella, a barmaid, and Jenny, a customer.
The first episode follows Bob, Jenny is followed in the second, and Ella is followed in the final piece, following Patrick Hamilton's trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels of which this is based upon.
In this modern age of fast paced, snappy action this mini-series may seem slow and bogged down by dialogue, but it takes not too long to realise the immense gravitas being drawn from all three of the actors involved.
30s London is recreated fantastically. It is a land of mundane routine and dull working class blandness, where people go about their lives wishing they could be more but never achieving it.
I found it very fascinating that Patrick Hamilton himself was infatuated with a prostitute at one stage, and therefore Bob is a mirror of him, and Jenny of her, because of this the series takes on a gritty, realistic edge. The dialogue is blunt, yet with the manner of the 1930s. There is an excellent scene in the first episode where Jenny and her friend Violet talk about proper manners, hardly what you'd expect from a pair of prostitutes.
Jenny is extremely flawed, and during the first episode you even get the feeling that she's simply not a nice person. Of course in real life, and in the book things simply aren't that simple, and the second episode exemplifies this, demonstrating exceptionally well why Jenny is the way she is.
In summary this is a fantastic piece of drama, and I will certainly be watching more of BBC 4 in the future.
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