jonathan strange & mr nor­rell

“ ne is never alone

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - News - Jonathan Strange & Mr Nor­rell, Su­sanna Clarke’s Hugo- win­ning fan­tasy, comes to TV. Ian Ber­ri­man be­holds magic

On set for the BBC’s adap­ta­tion of the hit book.

when one has a book,” ac­tor Ed­die Marsan de­clares. It’s a sen­ti­ment which any­one who’s read Su­sanna Clarke’s en­gross­ing 2004 novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Nor­rell – now com­ing to BBC One as a seven- part se­rial – might very well agree with. In­deed, if a book can ad­e­quately stand in for hu­man com­pany, then Clarke’s brick- thick fan­tasy – set in an al­ter­nate 19th cen­tury Bri­tain where, af­ter fall­ing out of use for cen­turies, magic is mak­ing a re­turn – can sub­sti­tute for an en­tire so­cial cir­cle.

On this chilly De­cem­ber day in South York­shire, it’s a state­ment the be­wigged Marsan is ex­press­ing in char­ac­ter as the tit­u­lar Mr Nor­rell, one of the mis­matched ma­gi­cians whose dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship is at the heart of the story. In the scene be­ing filmed to­day, the fussy, me­thod­i­cal Nor­rell – who has yet to meet his fu­ture ap­pren­tice, the more in­stinc­tive, ro­man­tic Jonathan Strange ( Ber­tie Carvel) – has been em­braced by Lon­don high so­ci­ety, in­vited to dine at the home of cabi­net min­is­ter Sir Wal­ter Pole. Foot­men are lined up be­hind the dozen din­ner guests, gath­ered round a ta­ble laden with bowls of nuts and – the luxury! – pineap­ples. Paint­ings of naval ves­sels hang­ing on the walls serve as a re­minder that, hun­dreds of miles away, war with Napoleon is rag­ing.

Seated at the end of the ta­ble, Alice En­glert’s Lady Pole is, slightly sur­re­ally, in ca­sual 21st cen­tury clobber, pre­sum­ably not re­quired to ac­tu­ally ap­pear in shot. Block­ing the scene with the ac­tors, direc­tor Toby Haynes – the man who locked the Eleventh Doc­tor in the Pan­dor­ica – pon­ders how best to con­vey a ser­vant’s sud­den panic at glimps­ing some­thing un­nerv­ing re­flected in a shiny sil­ver serv­ing dish ( Marc War­ren’s sin­is­ter “gen­tle­man with this­tle- down hair”, the king of faerie land, is not present to­day…) Per­haps he should drop the soup slap- bang in Nor­rell’s lap? Ed­die Marsan doesn’t flinch…

The shoot­ing sched­ule matches the scale of Clarke’s thou­sand- page novel, with its dense bar­na­cle- growths of schol­arly foot­notes. Film­ing will later move on to Mon­treal ( stand­ing in for the Ibe­rian Penin­sula, front line in the war with France) and Tro­gir in Croa­tia ( dou­bling for Venice, as it did in Doc­tor Who’s “The Vam­pires Of Venice”), but to­day we’re at Went­worth House, near Rother­ham, an 18th cen­tury coun­try house of ti­tanic pro­por­tions: over 300 rooms; 250,000 square feet of floorspace; three times the size of Buck­ing­ham Palace. Some of the ex­ist­ing rooms are be­ing mod­i­fied and dressed, with, for ex­am­ple, the wood- pan­elled chapel serv­ing as the orig­i­nal de­bat­ing cham­ber of the House of Com­mons, and the ball­room trans­formed

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.