Thursday, 9 April 2015

Cream of Cornish

I blogged excitedly about Poldark when I heard it was being made, so perhaps it's a little surprising that I haven't done so since the programme has been on telly. Well, I said it then and I shall say it now: AY CARAMBA! If ever there was the perfect combination of actor and role, it is Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. He was fine in Being Human, suitably brooding in Desperate Romantics, but he is absolutely perfect as Ross Poldark.
Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark
Worth every penny of the licence fee...
I'll have mine wrapped to go, thank you.

I already know the storylines from reading the books and watching the 1970s series, but have been very good and not tweeted spoilers to friends. It's fun to see their likes and dislikes of characters, and what they hope or fear will happen. I love the scope of Poldark: yes, it's a romance, but author Winston Graham was keenly aware of history, and the story is set in the early Industrial Revolution. The vagiaries of the mining industry and the way working-class people lived is as much a part of the tale as emotional relationships. Unlike so many costume dramas, it doesn't ignore the working classes, use them purely for comic relief, or turn them into forelock-tugging fools happy in their subservience. So, without spoiling things for you, here's how I feel the major characters from the two series compare.

Ross – no comparison. Robin Ellis was pleasant enough, but Aidan Turner is just dreamy. It says something for the BBC that they managed to find him an engaging...

Verity and Demelza. They're nice.
...Demelza – I like both Demelzas. Angharad Rees was adored as Demelza in the 1970s version, and she did have a rosy, earthy quality perfect for the decade that brought us the golden age of Laura Ashley and The Good Life. Even now, when I think of Angharad Rees as Demelza I smile, because she was pure sunshine. Eleanor Tomlinson is less cheeky, she has more of an underfed waifish appeal whereas Rees played up the impish urchin side of the character, but both are lovely and a complete contrast to...
Elizabeth moping. As ever.
 ...Elizabeth. Elizabeth is marvellously annoying in the books, and both programmes. Both Jill Townsend (1970s) and Heida Reed (modern) have an elegant, aristocratic look that makes them perfect for the role. I find Elizabeth more annoying in the books; in this latest version she's pretty drippy, drifting along without rocking the boat, whereas in the earlier programme and the books I always got the impression that she'd always drift along in the general direction of money, even though she was clearly in love with Ross. I guess that's what well-off girls did in the eighteeth century, but dammit, she passed up Ross for...

Francis. Good for something, but I'm not sure what.
...Francis. In the 1970s show, Clive Francis had a certain foppish charm which made you understand why Elizabeth might have fallen for him in Ross' absence and stuck with him when Ross came back, on top of the money. You could understand why 70s Francis gambled and had affairs, because he had that rakish quality, and you felt Elizabeth's status as an heiress from an old Cornish family was something that interested him as much as Elizabeth herself. (70s Francis and Elizabeth deserved each other.) Kyle Soller as modern Feeble Francis looks like he'd be happier planting turnips rather than associating with (as the splendid Ankaret Wells phrased it) 'The only whore in Cornwall' and blowing the family fortune in card games. I feel sorry for modern Francis because he clearly loved Elizabeth and if only she'd reciprocated he might not have wandered off in search of loose women and bad men. His money is, of course, his major appeal to TOWIC and the money-grubbing...

George, scheming, with some help from Riff Raff... erm, his uncle.
...GEORGE WARLEGGAN. Boo, hiss, etc. I have sympathy for George, actually, in all versions, because no-one ever forgets his grandfather was working class, so he's responded by getting as rich as he can and ruining everyone he can, which wouldn't have happened in the first place if people weren't such outrageous snobs. Jack Farthing as modern George is okay, but Vintage George was played by Ralph Bates, who was also in Hammer films and is therefore automatically the winner. Luffs me some Ralph Bates, to the point where I was sort of #teamgeorge for the original series, though this time round I am definitely #teamross.

To my shame that I have no memories of Francis' sister Verity at all from the original series, even though she's one of my favourite characters in the books. Shame on me! She seems to be very popular with viewers this time round. I'm much harder on Verity than Elizabeth, but perhaps it's because Elizabeth is pretty and gave up Ross to be pampered by someone who would love her if only she'd love him back, whereas plain Verity gave up her love and everyone continued to take her for granted, forcing her into the passionless role of the person who looks after everyone else. You have to be a pretty awful person not to like Verity and want better for her.

Demelza is impressed with Trenwith. Who wouldn't be?
You could say Cornwall is the other star of the show (though there was a bit of controversy as some scenes were filmed in other counties; 'Truro' is actually Corsham in Wiltshire). The 1970s programme used a lot of studio sets, whereas the modern one is shot on location and benefits all the more from it. There are frequent scenes of people gazing out to sea (Ross brooding, Demelza thinking, Francis brooding, Elizabeth moping, poor women looking for shoals of pilchards to salt so they wouldn't starve over winter) and they're really cinematic. I wonder if it's the result of tellies getting bigger, and picture quality improving? My mum wouldn't even have seen the original programme in colour as we didn't get a colour telly until the 1980s. People might not have seen the need for such natural-looking sets and scenes back then, given they'd be on a tiny screen and possibly in monochrome. Anyhow, the landscapes are gorgeous, and even I might be tempted to marry Francis knowing he was going to inherit the gorgeous house of Trenwith, 'played' by Chavenage House in Tetbury. Trenwith is possibly the one thing more attractive than Ross Poldark, which might explain Elizabeth's choice!

Have you been watching Poldark? Am I unfair to Elizabeth and Francis? Do you think George's Snidely Whiplash mentality is justified or t'int fit, t'int right, t'int proper? And for people outside the UK reading this, do look out for it on whatever channels you have that get British costume dramas.

FISH RUSH!

25 comments :

  1. I vaguely remember it from the 1970s but haven't watched the remake. It clashes with Indian Summers which I absolutely adore.
    I think I'm the only woman on the planet who doesn't fancy him. Facebook breaks at 9pm every Sunday night, I swear! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been wary of Indian Summers simply because every modern British TV show seems to completely ignore the existence of the Anglo-Indian (mixed-race) community, and the character list for Indian Summers suggests the same thing happens in that show. Drives me mad how it/we get written out of history.

      Delete
    2. The central character is an illegitimate Anglo-Indian child. x

      Delete
    3. Ah, that's interesting to know! And good.

      One day I will go to Kolkata and see if any de Solminihacs remain, but I don't think there are any there any more.

      Delete
  2. Ooh, sorry, I've read your review with interest but I must be the only woman in the UK not swooning over Aidan Turner ! In this house, he's known as the dwarf getting above himself (ha!) with an elf in the Hobbit films.
    I'm not watching Poldark, and although I was aware of it in the Seventies, I didn't watch it then either. I know; I'll get me coat... xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was all wrong for that film! I love the Lord of the Rings films, but the Hobbit ones are pointlessly bloated. (That said, I watch them!)

      Delete
  3. Oh I need to get hold of this. I have never seen the 1970's series, but the Poldark series is a very old favourite of mine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is lovely, though they're cramming two books into each series, which makes some storylines a bit rushed.

      Delete
  4. I'm in the opposite camp. My friend and I took one look and loathed it! He just doesn't appeal to me at all, makes me think of a grubby boy who needs a bath. Sorry, haha! You can have him instead ; ) We are of the old school and only Robin Ellis will ever do for us! And we didn't like the new Demelza either.

    ReplyDelete
  5. But, yes, Verity is a great character, and Elizabeth is just wet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elizabeth is always rubbish! If she'd had half Demelza's guts, an awful lot of people would be spared an awful lot of unhappiness.

      Delete
    2. I was too young to be allowed to watch the 1970's version at the time and have never got round to catching up with it since.

      I am currently catching up with Poldark in chunks on the I-Player as I too am glued to Indian Summers.(I would recommend trying it, it's fantastic and beautifully shot, and as Vix said there is much evidence of mixed race characters.)

      I have to say, personally I find watching Poldark 3 episodes at a time is a pretty damn good way of viewing it!

      Unlike the ladies above I am firmly in the Aidan Turner Phwoor camp!!

      Delete
    3. I'm with Miss Magpie in the Phwoor camp! The scything scene made a change from the heaving bosoms usually shown in period dramas.

      I can remember watching Poldark in the 1970s with Mum and Dad but don't think it particularly captured my imagination then; I was probably too young!

      However eye-candy aside, I am enjoying this series and I did recognise Chavenage House as its not too far from me, and think: "Hang on, that's not in Cornwall!"

      Delete
    4. My husband was quite impressed by Elizabeth's heaving bosom, though I think even he found her drippiness annoying...

      I keep thinking I should head over to Corsham and do some bosom-heaving of my own for the camera...

      Delete
    5. I do like Indian Summers, a lot. Best drama I've seen for ages on TV.

      Delete
  6. Oo I have been thoroughly enjoying this remake of Poldark!! And I do think Ross is hot, which is odd for me because usually I don't go for the types that everyone else swoons over. I think your take on things is pretty much spot on. It is hard to empathise too much with Elizabeth and Francis, they have so much going for them and seem determined to scupper it and not appreciate where they are, given the context of the time. Neither of them have balls, so it's fitting that they're together really!

    I'm reading the books now too, enjoying them. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, the books are great! Good to know you're enjoying them.

      Delete
  7. No, Mim.. I can't say I've seen the series.. but, now that you've given me such a lovely description.. I might give it a go (as soon as I have the time to relax and enjoy.. soon, I hope) :)

    Have a great Sunday evening!

    Marija

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You too! Next episode of Poldark tonight, woohoo!

      Delete
    2. OKi-doki... I gave it a go..
      Oh, my.. it's contagious! The drama, the stories.. the main characters.. overwhelmingly adorable.
      THANK you for telling me about this (I'll blame you for lack of leisure activities due to watching TV series) :)

      Marija

      Delete
    3. Hehehe! At least it's a British series, so it doesn't last very long!

      Delete
  8. We've been enjoying Poldark and I must say I prefer Aiden whatshisname in this more than anything else I have seen him in. I didn't like him in Being Human and could take or leave him in Desperate Romantics.

    I really like Verity, she's just lovely. I haven't seen the 70's version mind you. Not over keen on Elizabeth or the woman with the forehead either.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am really enjoying Poldark, I haven't read the books or seen the previous series so it is all new to me. I think Aidan Turner is going a marvellous job but he hasn't set me swooning. Francis needs to man up, he is so wet he annoys me. I also find Elizabeth annoying as she is so passive about everything. Verity is fab, run off with the sea captain already! I am also really enjoying Indian Summers, I would give it a try.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Poor Elizabeth. She'll be forever dammed for not being ideal enough for modern day audiences.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I do not regard Elizabeth as passive. She strikes me as a complex and private woman. Perhaps if Ross was not so obsessed with her, many would not be tempted to paint her in a negative light, like the 70s series writers.

    ReplyDelete