"... and pierce the drought of March to the root..." In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales ( yes, I'm teaching Chaucer among others these days ) spring is the time of rebirth, of the flourishing of life.
On the contrary, I feel rather exhausted and worn out and while watching the beautiful blossoming spring days out of my window I feel very little enthusiasm, it gives me  no new energy, it doesn't cheer me up at all.  After being mad busy for weeks, I feel now emptied.
I've been overwhelmed by deadlines and paperwork. The result is that I'm so stressed that I haven't been blogging, nor reading, nor doing anything special. And this has made me even sadder.
No spiritual rebirth corresponding to the one I witness in Nature, I feel nothing of the sort ,  only a strong wish to escape somewhere. Somewhere distant, far and very different.  I'm ready to start over again after the next brief Easter break. I really hope to feell much more energetic in a week's time!

Anyhow, have I been doing anything interesting in my very little spare time? Well,  I have watched a few things. Period drama, both on British TV and  on  DVD. Wish to know what?

The original  set of VHS tapes - Does anybody still own a  videorecorder?

I was really interested in getting and watching this old BBC 6-part series because it is the only quite long series I've heard about dealing with Shakespeare's life. There are not many Shakespeare fictional biographies available to see and Shakespeare in love or Anonymous don't champion accuracy as their main features.   But very little biographical accuracy is what you also find in the 1978 drama I've been watching.  It is a good picture of the atmosphere  and lifestyle of the Elizabethan world but not of Will Shakespeare as an artist and a man. You won't find a fascinating character nor an admirable genius to love. There's very little coherence and not much analysis.

You'll find a couple of handsome actors (Tim Curry  as Shakespeare and Nicholas Clay as the Earl of Southampton) who are remarkable in their Elizabethan costumes,  but the poor budget and the rather improbable scripts don't help them give unforgettable performances.

It is not a convincing biopic. May it be the sign that it's time to produce a new one with modern techniques and proper budget ? I haven't seen the 2005 BBC, Waste of Shame: William Shakespeare , starring Rupert Graves , yet. Is that one better? Has anybody seen it?

By chance in the last weeks, I've also been leafing through an interesting monograph by James Shapiro, 1599 A Year in the Life of Shakespeare,  not exactly in search for confirmation to my doubts about the accuracy of this TV drama , but ... well, they were confirmed, anyway.
I hope to be able to write a review of the book as soon as I finish reading it. Almost there.

In conclusion,  it is not easy to find this old series but if you are really interested and you want to try it yourself ,  here is my little help:  the DVD version for region 1 US  (on the left)  is available at Amazon.com. No region 2 available.


Keely Hawes and Ed Stoppard - Lady and Sir Hallam
This second series was much better than the first one I saw in London in 2010, or at least I liked it much more. It is good BBC quality period drama with a wonderful cast, beautiful costumes, excellent making. However,  this remake of the 70s ITV series of the same name has had the mischance to be beaten in time by the hugely successful ITV Downton Abbey with so many elements in common.

And, certainly, the new Upstairs Downstairs is not a lucky show. This second series had even to cope with a double blow: losing Eileen Atkins's Lady Maud and Jean Marsh as Rose Buck. Jean Marsh, who has always played Rose Buck, the former parlour maid turned housekeeper at 165 Eaton Place, was struck down with a stroke. She only  briefly appeared in this second series as Rose Buck coping with tubercolosis in a sanatorium. Touching scenes, both cameos.
While Dame Eileen Atkins, who in the last series created the role of the imperious Maud, Lady Holland, the mother of Sir Hallam, decided not to continue.  

All the others were there again, both upstairs and downstairs,  with a few new arrivals: Ami Metcalf (Eunice), Laura Haddock (Beryl) and Michael Landes (Caspar) and Alex Kingston (as Dr Mottersheam).

Michael Landes as Caspar  Landry
Set in the year preceding the Second World War, 165 Eaton Place reopens its doors and welcomes viewers back into the enrapturing lives of its inhabitants, both upstairs and down.
Now a well established and thriving household in the heart of London, life in Eaton Place has moved on: Lady Agnes (Keeley Hawes) and Sir Hallam's (Ed Stoppard) family is complete with the addition of two small children and London has settled into an uneasy peace with the apparent aversion of war.
But all is not quite what is seems... unwilling to dismiss the threat of Hitler and driven by a crusading compulsion to protect his country and save the vulnerable, Sir Hallam is drawn into dangerous waters which threatens all that he holds dear. Lady Agnes, with her family complete, and her husband increasingly otherwise engaged, begins to question her position and look for a more fulfilling role in life. And as Sir Hallam's forthright aunt, Dr Blanche Mottershead (Alex Kingston), makes herself comfortable in 165, her progressive views and unconventional lifestyle lead to a revelation which shakes Eaton Place to its very core...
Meanwhile, as life downstairs adjusts to the absence of Rose, the introduction of spirited new nursery maid Beryl (Laura Haddock) sees changes spiral further than anticipated. And when a pivotal revelation about another member of staff comes to light, the consequences have a far reaching and heart breaking impact...
Claire Foy as Lady Persie
Upstairs Downstairs may be more serious-minded than its historical rival ITV drama, Downton Abbey.  It  may result less fun or less charming, but I think it's  definitely  a  good quality show with an excellent cast. I especially liked the last 2 episodes. Why? 
This new BBC series has a good balance between the classic period drama features (romance, love affairs, betrayals, dates and balls, marriages and births) and unsentimental serious minded drama ( Kristallnacht, the plight of Jewish refugees and the kindertransport, prejudices against homosexuality, conscience objection, the woman question).  I hope viewing figures don't prejudice BBC1 against developing the idea further into a series 3.
On the official BBC site you'll find more about the characters, the six episodes and a lot of clips as well (only available for UK watchers).


Prue Batten said...

I love it when you post these reviews of things you have watched. I trust your judgement completely. Please have a calm, quiet and restful break and try and take a day away where you can breathe the air and 'smell the roses'.

Maria Grazia said...

@Prue Batten
Counting down to my short Easter break. I hope I'll be able to enjoy some free time. They say it'll be windy, rainy and cold this week. I'm afraid it won't be easy to go for walks and enjoy some warm sunshine but never mind. I need a break, I won't let the rain influence my mood.
Thanks for passing by and for your sympathy :-)

lunarossa said...

Sorry about you feeling a bit low. Hopefully the nice weather in Italy will lift you up. We had some few very warm and sunny days here and I felt almost in heaven. Now it's cold again and tomorrow snow is forecast!!! :( Glad you love Upstairs Downstairs. I wasn't so keen on the first episode but then it got better and better and watching the last episode I was in buckets of tears! I've been reading 1599 too but I've left it aside at the moment as I'm reading Ammaniti! I need a bit of Italian too!!! Wish you all the best. Ciao. A.xx

Maria Grazia said...

Actually A. my mood never depends on the weather. I could live in England and never complain of the awful weather. I'm always so busy, I barely notice what the weather is like! However, these days here in Italy it has been sunny and warm. It has started to change just tonight and we expect a rainy Easter week.
I'm sure I'll feel better after this break. I'm just stressed, exhausted. It happens. Even to ... ME! Hugs & Kisses MG

Maria Grazia said...

I loved the final episode of Upstairs Downstairs and, useless to say, I was in tears too!

Melanie said...

I just recently bought and watched season 1 of Upstairs Downstairs- I absolutely loved it! I like the way the events of the word are incorporated into the story, whereas in Downton Abbey, it at times feels as if that's the center of the universe.

I hope PBS airs season two of Upstairs Downstairs!

Does Claire Foy appear in season two? Her character is so fascinating.

Maria Grazia said...

She appears and has got a key role. I loved her character, a complex fragile one. Either you love her or ... you can't remain indifferent. But I don't want to spoil for those who haven't seen it yet :D
Thanks for your comment, Melanie.

Anonymous said...

Cheer up, MG!
You're about to have a day out, at last! :D
Can't guarantee for the weather, but the company will be... well, the best :P
See you very soon,
xx K/V

Anonymous said...

April is the cruellest month...but all will be well.

I love both Downton and Upstairs, Downstairs, for their respective merits. MG, I see you have the DVD of The Buccaneers in the side-bar! Love that, too. Costume drama junkie? Moi? Jennie Jerome and her sisters. :D

May is on the horizon. Now take a wee break (not from writing, please.) And smell the roses.


Maria Grazia said...

As you said, this break was "invigorating" and "indispensable". Thanks for being a generous, impeccable host (and very patient!!!)

A period drama junkie, me too. The Buccaneers is one of my best favourite ever.
Let's hope May will be better, but being a teacher I guess I'll be under pressure till the first half of June. Then I'll be working in another school for the school-leaving exams until ... mid-July.
But better to think of the present and enjoy this Easter break.

Thanks both for your support and sympathy! :-)
Maria Grazia