It’s Downton with a darker side, writes Robert Rorke of The New York Post

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

I F you think war is hell, try the bat­tle­field of mar­riage. That’s the dy­namic be­hind the HBO minis­eries

Pa­rade’s End.

Pe­riod Ed­war­dian Eng­land could not be more pop­u­lar, as ev­i­denced by Downton Abbey. Pa­rade Downton

The five-hour has ev­ery­thing fans love about as ob­ser­va­tions about man­ners and mo­rals play out against the back­drop of his­tory. And let’s not for­get the cos­tumes. The Tom Stop­pard adap­ta­tion of the Ford Ma­dox Ford novel has a darker tone than the Ju­lian Fel­lowes soap and adds an­other jewel to the act­ing crown of Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, who played a gay spy in be­fore his role in

of­fers Cum­ber­batch his most com­plex role to date as Christo­pher Tietjens, an an­tique aris­to­crat and de­cent chap who would rather be mocked, hu­mil­i­ated and made a fig­ure of scan­dal than ap­pear dis­loyal. Bri­tish ac­tress Re­becca Hall (

is delectably re­pel­lent as Christo­pher’s wife, Sylvia, whose con­de­scen­sion knows no lim­its. Tinker Tai­lor Sol­dier Spy


Pa­rade’s End



His only hope for hap­pi­ness is fetch­ing suf­fragette Valen­tine Wannop, a well-mean­ing ide­al­ist whose name alone has enough mean­ing to set off lit­er­ary smoke alarms.

She is played by Aus­tralian Ade­laide Cle­mens ( The Great Gatsby), who was so taken with Stop­pard’s script she flew her­self to Lon­don to au­di­tion and showed up in an Ed­war­dian cos­tume.

The story kicks off with Christo­pher’s mar­riage to so­cial-climb­ing Sylvia, though she is preg­nant with an­other man’s baby. De­spite an ex­tra­mar­i­tal li­ai­son she con­ducts in France, Christo­pher re­solves to re­main faith­ful.

A chance en­counter with Valen­tine prom­ises a more sin­cere con­nec­tion but Christo­pher doesn’t act on it.

‘‘It’s a love tri­an­gle,’’ says di­rec­tor Su­sanna White ( Gen­er­a­tion Kill).

‘‘What Tom did made was to make Sylvia a lot more em­pa­thetic than she is in the novel. She’s so much a pris­oner of her time. Di­vorce is un­think­able.

‘‘Be­cause of his code of hon­our Christo­pher’s never go­ing to lie to her. He falls in love with Valen­tine be­cause she’s his in­tel­lec­tual equal.’’

Christo­pher goes to war to es­cape his mar­riage. Valen­tine waits – and waits.

‘‘She’s naive. I think she’s a vir­gin . . . a boyfriend is the last thing on her mind,’’ says Cle­mens.

‘‘She’s kind of all about the cause. That’s why I think it’s really beau­ti­ful about Christo­pher and Valen­tine find­ing each other.

‘‘There’s no way Christo­pher wants an­other re­la­tion­ship. Valen­tine is very con­fused by it all. I think she sees him as a com­pan­ion. Through­out the course of the war she’s hav­ing a sex­ual awak­en­ing . . . war cheap­ened life.’’

The war as an agent of change strips away the trap­pings of Ed­war­dian so­ci­ety. The bat­tle­field gives Christo­pher his courage.

The cast was full of sur­prises, par­tic­u­larly Ru­pert Everett, who plays Christo­pher’s older brother, Mark, Stop­pard says.

‘‘I didn’t ac­tu­ally ask him to wear Ge­orge Bernard Shaw’s beard, but there he was.’’

Wed­nes­days, 8.30pm, Nine, NBN

Pa­rade’s End:

Pa­rade’s End stars Re­becca Hall and Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch.

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