Thursday, July 7, 2011

Here Comes the Midwife

Funny lady de jour Miranda Hart, pictured above, is currently filming her first period role in the BBC adapatation of Jennifer Worth's popular Call the Midwife trilogy of memoirs, which detailed her life as a young midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. "A moving, intimate, funny and, above all, true-to-life account" of the midwife's lot has been promised. The writer Heidi Thomas worked closely with Ms. Worth on the scripts for the six-part series before her death earlier this year. Hart will be joined in the cast by bonnet enthusiasts Pam Ferris, Judy Parfitt and Jenny Agutter. Newcomer Jessica Raine will play the lead role of the young Jenny who leaves home and goes to live with a community of nuns and fellow trainee midwives.

Also taking her first television role is Bryony Hannah, who was stunning as the manipulative schoolgirl spelling trouble for schoolmistresses Elizabeth Moss and Keira Knightley in the London revival of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour earlier this year. I think that this casting is very good news as is the commissioning of the series itself. It is very difficut to break new ground period drama-wise and the midwife has never taken centre-stage before to my recollection. The most substantial role for a midwife that I can recall is Old Sally in Oliver Twist who delivers young Mr Twist and then promptly steals the locket from around his recently-deceased mother's neck. Sally's death-bed confession does ultimately lead to unlocking the truth of the title character's mysterious beginnings yet this seems a poor showing for a profession that is, after all, necessary for our very existence.........well, our safe arrival anyhow!

Ms. Thomas, no slouch when it comes to adaptations, is also currently working on the second series of the revived Upstairs, Downstairs. Somewhat overshadowed by the runaway success of Downton Abbey, Upstairs, Downstairs was nevertheless well worth a look last Christmas. As a writer, she is very good at period detail and social commentary but she does have an unfortunate tendency to pepper her writings with levels of sentimentality that would make the residents of both Lark Rise and Candleford blush! And with babies added to the mix, this new series could potentially be capable of inducing type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, it may be as excellent as Thomas's crowning glory thus far, her 2007 adapatation of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. All will be revealed on BBC One in early 2012 when Call the Midwife will make its debut. So, does the idea of a period series about midwifery tickle your fancy?

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