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"Parade's End", WWI history and Ramblings

As was only to be expected when you look at the people involved in the adaptation/series Parade's End looks FABULOUS. I won't say too much because of spoilers (not that the Telegraph review seemed too worried about that!), but I really, really hope the Beeb are going to produce a DVD - there's so much going on that I think this needs to be re-watched to be fully appreciated. REALLY looking forward to next week.

Benedict Cumberbatch is again perfectly cast as Christopher Tietjens - conveying intense emotion with the slightest quirks or purses or tightenings of his lips. And falling apart beautifully when he can finally repress/suppress no longer. He really has cornered the market in young, British, emotionally self-suppressed, incredibly intelligent intellectuals (IIRC he once described all his characters as slightly socipathic and asexual - and while this is a love story, in his repression and Edwardian values and virtues, Christopher fits.) While being an extraordinary physical actor and tremendously vocally gifted (I did like the bit in tonight's episode where he got to sing more than a couple of bars for once! and to my ears his "Christopher voice" is as distinct from his Sherlock as his Martin Creiff is) Cumberbatch seems to have a true ART for acting men who have a lot going on beneath the surface, men for whom the life of the MIND is paramount.

He also (or his agent and casting directors) has a great skill in choosing roles that both challenge him - no one could truly call Stephen Hawking, Sherlock Holmes, Christopher Tietjens etc as in any way type-casting; this is not a career of playing the same part over and over again - while demonstrating his best assets.

To change the subject a little, while Martin Freeman is, in my opinion, as fine an actor as Benedict Cumberbatch is, he has had either less luck, or less skill in his roles. Maybe he is that rare breed, the true supporting actor, but I hope not. But to date few parts - and few productions - that he has been in have truly highlighted him, which I think is a great pity.

He has picked some bloody weird film choices, too, if I may be so bold. And I'm not too enthused about The Hobbit at the moment.

Going back to Parade's End, it's a bit weird listening to way people are talking about the era in interviews and the tie-in documentaries. I mean, in 1912 my Dad's father was 23 and working on the Thames docks. My paternal grandmother was 12 - and still at school, not yet working in Bryant & Mays match factory, though that was only a year or so away for her. (Mum's parents had not yet been born - my Dad's eldest brother was two years older than Mum's father!) That's CLOSE: Dad's still alive and in WWI his Dad was in France, in charge of horses, driving ammunition up and down our lines

Yes, in some ways WWI changed the world - the death of so many young men, the start of modern warfare, the horrors of that war and how utterly unprepared for it we were, could not do otherwise - but in other ways, for many people and for the socio-cultural MORES there was a continuity between the teens and the twenties of the last century.

For example, while we talk about the Roaring Twenties and a certain amount of liberation, in 1923 when my Aunt Kathleen, not yet married to my Uncle Bruce, but courting, missed the last bus home, even though he took her home to his mother and she spent the night in bed with his sisters, and even though Uncle Bruce's mother escorted her home the next morning to explain, none of her family (including her brothers) would talk to her for a month because of the SHAME and SCANDAL of Kathleen having been out all night.

True social change - in all social classes - happens slowly. In 1967 the only acceptible way for my Mum to leave home was marriage - so she got married before her 20th birthday.

My Dad (born in 1936) told me repeatedly when I was growing up that if I was ever alone with a man in a room with a bed in it, I couldn't "cry rape" because what did I *think* was going to happen. He could not get his head around the idea that I could have male friends and that at university we'd go in and out of each others' study-bedrooms in halls (all halls and even corridors on the halls were mixed at York) for a chat, or a drink, or lunch, or a study session etc...

There has been more true social and cultural change in my Dad's lifetime - and even my elder brother's lifetime (born in 1966) - than could have been dreamt between 1900 and 1936. People talk of WWI as the end of the Edwardian British aristocracy - but the class system was still alive in 1920 in a way impossible in 2012.

I do realise that I need to study this more. We did study WWI and its political aftermath in GCSEs, but school history was far more political than social.


Dee Natsuko

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