Friday, 15 May 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Strange and Norrell are wizard on the box

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ben-Felsenburg-colour-176Blissfully free of any redeeming worthiness, here is a rip-snorting feast of tall tales. The essential quality of the page-turner is present in doses more than large enough to offset any misgivings commonsensical viewers might have about a story steeped in magic. Fear not: we are spared the mystical excesses of a Tolkien.

In this alternate version of history, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Sunday, BBC One at 9pm), the facts are these: there is such a thing as magic; it has fallen into disuse in England for some three centuries; and now, in 1806, with war raging against Napoleon, the bookish Mr Norrell has single-handedly revived the practical and successful application of spells. As played by the wonderful Eddie Marsan, Norrell is a pernickety fellow who hoards his library and in every sense wants to play things by the book and make magic a respectable gentleman’s profession.

Then there is the debonair Jonathan Strange (the spritely Bertie Carvel), unlearned, a stranger to discipline and touched with natural genius for the supernatural. With the cast suitably periwigged, any resemblance between the tale of these rivals and that of Mozart and Salieri is entirely inescapable.

The original novel was written by Susanna Clarke, who graduated from Oxford with a degree in PPE, commonly a passport to a career in politics; perhaps it says something that our leaders’ ideas of government were forged by the same stuff that fuelled her fantasy. In any event, the hocus-pocus hokum is all rather wizard.



Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites, Fri, BBC2, 8pm
The kitchen queen shares her recipes in a new series, starting with seaside-inspired dishes.

Je T’Aime: The Story Of French Song With Petula Clark, Fri, BBC4, 9pm
The chansons of Charles Aznavour, Jane Birkin et les autres collated together by our very own Pet.

1864, Sat, BBC4, 9pm
A brilliant new epic Danish drama of a love triangle during the wars with Bismarck’s Prussia in the 19th century.

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