BBC brings magical story to life!
Ahead of its BBC One debut this Sunday (17th May), Inside Media Track sent Nick Pearmain to the BFI screening of episodes 1 & 2 of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell back in April, which also included a Q&A with some of the cast and crew. Read what he thought below…
BBC One welcomes you to the imagination of one of the greatest novelists that this planet has ever seen: Susanna Clarke. The award-winning Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell finally arrives on our TV screens in May. And we will not be left disappointed at all, thanks to director Toby Haynes and screenwriter, Peter Harness.
Set in the beginning of the 19th Century, England no longer believes in practical magic despite the interest still apparent. We first meet Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan), a man who likes to keep himself to himself, who stuns and scares the city of York by causing the statues of York Cathedral to move and speak. With news of this magic being spread, Mr Norrell is invited down to London by the government but with a twist! They want Mr Norrell to use his magic against Napoleon to win the war. There’s more trouble ahead for Norrell as he brings Lady Pole back from the dead to prove his gift with the help from The Gentleman (Marc Warren), an evil fairy who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
We then meet the rich, charming, big-headed Jonathan Strange Bertie Carvel, as he desperately tries to win the hand in marriage to his true love, Arabella, he bumps into Mr Norrell’s enemy, Vinculus, who reveals to Strange that he is destined to be a great magician. At first Strange thinks that it is all nonsense, however he tries a little bit of magic and to his surprise, it works! It is then he moves to London to work alongside the amazing Mr Norrell and both begin an odd but wonderful friendship with each other. But it’s only a matter of time before Mr Norrell starts doubting Strange and starts wondering if using magic against the enemy is really the right thing after all.
After reading the book, I had faith that this drama would be magical and breathtaking. Of course it is directed by Toby Haynes, the man who directed a number of Doctor Who episodes. So you know that this is going to be a great piece of art. From the beginning of episodes one and two, you automatically forget where you are and who you are. You are drawn into a world of wonderful make-believe. Marc Warren playing The Gentleman spooked me completely because he was dead on the mark (no pun intended). However, him getting the part is without a doubt the funniest and surprising story ever. He stated “I never actually read the book. As a matter of fact, it was Richard and Judy who told me about the book and told me that I needed to play The Gentleman if they ever asked me to. So all of this was thanks to Judy!”
Carvel and Marsan as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is absolutely, speaking from the heart, so refreshing! How quickly Norrell’s personality changes as soon as he hears that there is another magician is very clever. He wants the two to learn from each other, but as soon as Strange becomes the town’s favourite there is a slight jealously in Norrell and you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Bertie Carvel explains why he accepted the role, “I read the book some years ago and was totally enchanted. I’ve been casting spells for the part of Strange ever since! It is a considerable surprise to find that some of them worked!”
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell begins on BBC One, Sunday 17th May at 9pm.
You can also watch the Q&A session below…