Monday, September 17, 2012

Good Vibrations

After garnering many plaudits and consecutive Olivier Awards for two very different stage roles in London, young actress de jour Sheridan Smith, previously best-known for her roles in BBC sitcoms The Royle Family, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Gavin and Stacey, is currently on the crest of a wave, professionally speaking. She is following her West End performances as chirpy sorority sweetheart turned Harvard graduate Elle Woods in musical hit Legally Blonde: The Musical and as the heartbroken wife of an RAF pilot in World War Two in Terence Rattigan's Flare Path with a season in the Old Vic as Ibsen's troubled and troubling anti-heroine Hedda Gabler. While tormenting old ladies and vulnerable alcoholics eight times a week for the next two months, Miss Smith will also be giving Meg Ryan a run for her money in UK cinemas from Friday 21st September in Hysteria as a saucy housemaid by the name of Molly the Lolly who is a willing participant in the experiments of the pioneering doctor who sought to cure female hysteria in late Victorian London and inadvertently invented the vibrator.

It is a curious true story and one that is not widely known but a very welcome addition to the period drama canon based on its premise alone and its comedic approach should serve as a nice counterpoint to David Cronenberg's intense drama of medical breakthroughs and sexual frustration, A Dangerous Method - yes, the one with all the spanking. Hugh Dancy (pictured with Smith above) plays the central role of Dr. Mortimer Granville in Hysteria alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte Dalrymple, the obligatory suffragette who takes his fancy, perfecting the English accent she more than ably pulled off in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang two years ago. Also featuring in the impressive cast that director Tanya Wexler has assembled are Rupert Everett, Felicty Jones, Anna Chancellor, Georgie Glen, Ashley Jensen, Jonathan Pryce and Gemma Jones. The Duchess herself, Gemma Jones, is currently filming this year's BBC One Christmas period treat, a new version of the 1938 Hitchcock classic with the enduringly brilliant premise The Lady Vanishes. Returning to the 1936 source novel, The World Spins by Ethel Lina White, the wonderfully named Tuppence Middleton will feature as Irene Carr, a young lady of independent means who, after striking up conversation with an excitable old lady on a train on her way back from holidaying in Central Europe, is perplexed to later discover that this Miss Froy is nowhere to be found on the train and that her fellow travellers have no knowledge of her existence.

Miss Froy is played by old period drama reliable and Doc Martin regular Selina Cadell alongside the aforementioned Gemma Jones, Stephanie Cole, Keeley Hawes, Pip Torrens, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Alex Jennings and Tom Hughes as a dashing young man who comes to Irene's rescue and helps her to solve the mystery of the vanishing lady. Tom was most recently seen killing poor old deposed monarch Ben Whishaw in a cave in Richard II on television. It's been a very good year for period drama on the BBC so far in fact. Their next great big hope for glory is The Paradise, set in a late Victorian department store and beginning on Tuesday 25th September on BBC One although I've seen previews and am yet to be convinced that it has the potential for mass appeal. The Beeb has wisely decided not to put it up against the third season of Downton, which began in earnest last night, and the Tuesday night slot may prove a masterstroke in attracting Downton fanatics during the midweek lull. Distraction is the key because for all Downton's faults, I'm still dying to find out what happens next and it's hard to get out of your head at times. I'm not worried about the estate being ruined any time soon though. ITV will wring the Abbey dry before the Crawleys are left in peace away from eighteen million prying eyes of a Sunday and, with such a massive hit on their hands, who can blame them?

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