Claustrophobic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s heartbreaking spy saga
★★★★ BBC1, Sunday, 17 July, 9pm
COSTUME DRAMAS are two a penny on British TV, but occasionally one comes along that really has a feel for period, rather than being a piece of fancy-dress nostalgia. This is one of the better ones.
It is, of course, based on Joseph Conrad’s classic spy novel, which Alfred Hitchcock also turned into a modern-day suspense flick.
For this three-parter, the BBC has lined up a fine cast and returned events to era of the novel – London, 1886.
Toby Jones as Verloc
Taking the lead is Toby Jones as the horrible Verloc, owner of a seedy Soho smut shop. He is married to Winnie, played by Vicky McClure. Verloc is a second-rate agent-provocateur on behalf of the Russian government. When he is summoned to meet the new First Secretary, his cushy number is over.
Played with a mixture of evil and charm by David Dawson, Vladimir demands more of Verloc. He blackmails him into organising a bomb outrage that will be blamed on the anarchists Verloc is spying on.
Victorian London is evocatively recreated and filmed (without cloying chocolate-box tweeness), and the performers are extremely good. But it is the dynamics between the characters and the claustrophobia of unfolding events that makes the drama so gripping. [Read more…]