Wednesday, 10 June 2015

All the Mirrors of the World - Reflections on Jonathan Strange and MrNorrell

Well!  To say that  "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell "  is a costume drama is like saying that Hannibal Lector is a carnivore, it's a bit of an understatement! It is a drama of breadth and depth but unlike any I have seen in a long while.

The failed assassination attempt on Mr N has left poor Lady Poole in the care of sweetly effeminate, but deeply intuitive Mr Segundas and the loyal Mr Honeyfoot, in the ingeniously named house "Crossstairs ". The  protective tendencies of these two gentle souls may well be the saving of her! With a blunderbuss filled with walnuts  Mr Honeyfoot vanquishes  the brusque Yorkshireman  (and I suspect more sympathetic than we realise)  Mr Childermass , injured in the line of fire.  It is the actions of these three Gentlemen that I believe will be the making of this tale. The as yet untapped abilities of Mr Segundas have perceived the rather lyrical use of a rose as a magical gag and may perhaps lead to the saving of both mistress and servant. Time will tell!

Jonathan continues to access more and more of the old Magicks, outstripping My Norrell at every turn.  The scene with the medals was symbolic in the extreme and immensely funny.  Strange, now Magician by Royal appointment has saved King George III from the fairy blade that The Gentleman thrust into Stephen's reluctant hand and literally stumbles upon the Kings's Roads, a place of meandering stairs and towers , devoid of colour (and eerily reminiscent of the Goblin King's castle in Henson  Production  Labyrinth). Has Jonathan  perhaps left easy egress for the coming return of the ominous Raven King ,leaving doors ajar that should perhaps have been left shut?

Bertie Carvel is wonderfully cast. He is at once cavalier and Blithe and yet gentle and kind. I love him and will be marking him down as one to watch in the future. 

The episode interestingly takes Jonathan through phases of awe, zealousness and in turn defeat as the machinations of Norrell to maintain the watered down Magicks in the realm of respectability and thus maintain his position as the leading Magician of the time continue . Eddie Marsan is strangely nuanced in his portrayal , at once underhand and slightly oily and vulnerable and childlike. 

Things are further complicated by the odiously self -serving  Mr Drawlight,  whose manipulation of the vulnerable and easily- led,is comedically revealed by the murderous tendency of a poor wife who has paid handsomely for the use of magic to rid herself of the folk she loathes.Drawlight's greed will ultimately lead to his downfall and reveal  the true nature of the toadying Lascelles, who as acolyte to Norris has become just  as dangerous as Norell himself. 

In the face of such men, slowly leeching his enthusiasm for his craft, Jonathan decides to withdraw.

The juxtaposition of all these connivances against the purity of the love felt between him and Belle are beautifully portrayed, the lovely little touches where Belle looks for onlookers before passionately embracing her husband are a joy to behold.  I am enjoying the performance of Jamie Parker immensely in the Role of Grant , army friend whose gruff friendship  also adds some light to the shade as the forces allying against the poor Mr Strange begin to amass.

In a cruel twist of fate just as he wishes to step away,  the actions of Napoleon Bonaparte and the white haired imp, the gentleman seek to draw him in deeper, his next gambit in the denouement of this episode being utterly frightening and yet mesmerising. 

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