Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Kids on the Block

Many famous landmarks around the city of Dublin, including Trinity College, the Clancy Barracks and the Phoenix Park, have recently been transformed into dens of depravity steeped in paranoia and fear. Not the continued ill effects of the dreaded recession, dear reader, but the filming of the BBC's major new period drama series Ripper Street. The eight-parter will premiere in the autumn and, set in the East End of London in 1889 in the aftermath of the notorious Ripper murders, follows the indefatigable efforts of the unfortunate individuals charged with keeping order on the chaotic streets of Whitechapel. The cast is led by the trio pictured above, Jerome Flynn, Matthew MacFadyen and Adam Rothenberg as Detective Drake, Inspector Reid and Captain Jackson and features an array of distinguished young actors in supporting roles including Charlene McKenna, Joe Gilgun, David Dawson and MyAnna Buring as prostitutes and ne'er do-wells. The former two were recently seen in the cult hit Misfits whilst the latter two have been quite high on the period drama radar of late.

David Dawson first came to my attention in 2010 as the tenacious young Manchester writer who created Coronation Street, Tony Warren, in one of BBC Four's better based-on-true-events dramas, was very entertaining as Bazzard, the lowly clerk with theatrical aspirations, in February in the mixed bag that was Gwyneth Hughes's bicentenary stab at the unfinished Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and played Prince Hal's drinking buddy Poins for Richard Eyre in the Henry IV portion of the riveting Shakespeare season of consecutive history plays, The Hollow Crown. The highlight of my period drama year thus far, the series only became more engrossing, stirring and poignant as it went on and felt so contemporary without ever once feeling contrived that it served as a definite poke in the eye for those who believe that Shakespeare has little or no resonance for a twenty-first century audience. Although packed to the rafters with memorable performances from Ben Whishaw's pathetically deposed Richard II to Joe Armstrong rabble-rousing rebel from the North, Harry Hotspur, the standout for me was Tom Hiddleston's transformation from a feckless youth who lives for sport and pleasure in the Henry IV plays to the warrior king who bravely leads his men to victory against all the odds at Agincourt in Henry V. The Hollow Crown was unfortunately rather submerged in the schedules by a stellar summer for sport but "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" who saw all four adaptations are unlikely to forget them any time soon.

Meanwhile, whilst her Ripper Street co-star Mr Dawson was, amongst other things, hanging with Julie Walters (what a Mistress Quickly!), Maxine Peake (what a Doll Tearsheet!) and Simon Russell Beale (and what a Falstaff!) in an Eastcheap tavern, MyAnna Buring, no slouch either, has been making a name for herself. The Swedish beauty starred as Lily in the spring in BBC Two's White Heat which detailed the highs and lows of a group of friends in London over twenty-five years from 1965 onwards and was well worth the investment of time over six episodes. Ms Buring's portrait of a tough cookie with artistic tendencies whose early ambitions are marred by personal tragedy and the harsh realities of life was particularly affecting although she is perhaps better known as a lady vampire by the name of Tanya Denari from the last two Twilight films. Not being a Twi-hard myself, I cannot personally vouch for her performances in the aforementioned franchise but I'm sure she does the best with what she's given. And in conjuction with this blog's policy of revealing ever single piece of information regarding Downton Abbey that crosses its path (based on the principle of giving the public what it wants), I should mention that she will also feature as a feisty and forward-thinking servant called Edna in the 2012 Christmas special alongside Simone Lahbib as lady's maid Wilkins. The girl's going places for sure.

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