Thursday, 7 January 2016

Dickensian text messaging


I've been enjoying that BBC series 'Dickensian' which is now on around episode 6 of 20. Take a bundle of Dickens characters and put them together in a closed world and see how they interact. The stories are all from a time before the main Dicken's novels but have a similar episodic feel to them.

Set in east London, with a daily cliffhanger ending, murders, a pub frequented by many of the players and even a wedding that could go a bit wrong...Why it sounds like another show on the BBC, except the cor blimey Cockney is less pronounced in this than in modern day Eastenders.

If Eastenders is like an 'X-Factor' soap, mainly brash and sensationalism, then Dickensian reminds me more of a 'Strictly' version, still with scenes of anguish and mayhem, but somehow with more of a heart. It even tickles me to see Stephen Rea playing Bucket from the Yard with a smile in his eye.

The extensive and well detailed set reminds me of something from a Punchdrunk production and is being well used, although I suppose the roaming camera will eventually run out of novel angles.

I'm enjoying the simple pleasure of the series. Some of the plots are a little contrived, but the spirit of the production has a warmth that seems just right for this time of year. It may often be snowing in the streets of this particular part of East London, and there may be a permanent mist hanging in the alleyways and by the dockyard, but I'm still interested to see how Bucket is influenced by Venus the Taxidermist, or whether Arthur Havisham's disinheritance was for *ahem* another reason fleetingly alluded to in the shared digs with Compeyson.

Really there's so many rich resources to deploy across the realm of Market Street, with its Curiosity Shop, Mantalini's, Scrooge and Marley's offices, The Cratchits, Bumble's Workhouse and Fagin's Lair. Somehow the twenty 30 minute episodes are not enough to do full justice to these 'Greatest character hits' from Dickens.

And just when I think Eastenders relies upon telephone-based drama too much, with text messages, missed calls and all, I see that Dickensian has a similar device. Except they shout "Boy", and pass their handwritten note and a penny to the nearest Short Message Service. Properly voice activated and long before Siri.

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