“I think we all have to find our own ways to be happy”
Who else but Andrew Davies did this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility for the BBC and to be sure, it is another cracker. I vividly remember loving this immensely when it aired and then being ridiculously excited as I was able to tick the actors off one by one as I saw them on the stage. From Hattie Morahan to Charity Wakefield, Dominic Cooper to Dan Stevens, Claire Skinner to the marvellous Linda Bassett, it is a wonderful cast and over the three hours of this version directed by John Alexander, they give great life to the tale of the Dashwood women as they are forced to downsize yet still find themselves suitable husbands.
Led by the widowed Mrs Dashwood (a wounded yet pragmatic Janet McTeer), eldest daughter Elinor (a magnificent performance of beautiful restraint from Hattie Morahan) and impetuous middle child Marianne (a deliciously spunky Charity Wakefield) have to dance their way through the minefield of male attention, conscious of the fact that their reduced situation may have limited them somewhat but hyper-aware of the importance in following their passion. Davies’ writing plays up the real difficulties for women stuck in a world where men make the rules and this more serious vein really works.
The trials of the family, including precocious youngest daughter Margaret, feel most convincing – the horror of moving from a Sussex mansion to a Devonshire coastal cottage, the struggles of their newly reduced circumstances, the kick in the teeth of male relatives inheriting what they feel is rightfully theirs. And as potential suitors come into view, the raising of hopes feels even more precariously balanced, with more at stake than usual whether in Cooper’s rakishly dashing Willoughby, Stevens’ inscrutably reserved Edward Ferrars or David Morrissey’s beautifully pitched Colonel Brandon.
The rest of the supporting cast is also a dream: Mark Gatiss as the pathetically limp John and Claire Skinner’s maliciously gleeful Fanny, delighted at taking over Norland and turfing out the resident Dashwoods are marvellous; Daisy Haggard and Anna Madeley as the Miss Steeles, Haggard’s country ways being a particular gently comic delight; and Linda Bassett as the well-meaning Mrs Jennings and Mark Williams as her husband are always fun. Leo Bill pops up briefly as one of the Ferrars brothers too but Jean Marsh is just epic as the fearsome matriarch whose opinion holds so much sway over which way the dating dominoes will fall.
All in all, highly recommended.