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Posts Tagged ‘Marc Warren’

image credit Todd Anthony/BBC Studios

image credit Todd Anthony/BBC Studios

My favorite TV pick from the past week is the magical fantasy miniseries, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell based on the novel by Susanna Clarke.

Imagine if you will early 19th century England devoid of magic for the past three centuries. The last English magician, the Raven King, apparently took it with him and since then magic has been studied, but not practiced. Then along comes a deranged street magician Vinculus (Paul Kaye) with a prophecy that two men are destined to bring magic back to England.

One of those men is pedantic, reclusive Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) who has a clear vision about making English magic respectable. (Imagine Hermoine Granger as an aging man.) He is also renowned for having the most extensive collection of books on the subject often to the point of hoarding them. He dismisses the prophecy as an insane man’s ramblings.

However, the other, an aimless young gentleman of property in search of a profession, Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) embraces the revelation and undertakes to learn magic from the most learned magician in the country, Mr. Norrell, of course.

What begins as a teacher/apprentice relationship deteriorates into a battle of two magicians; one accomplished and cautious, the other blessed with raw talent and daring. When Jonathan is recruited by the British Army to help them defeat Napoleon with magic, his acclaim arouses both concern and jealousy in Mr. Norrell.

As Jonathan’s attitudes to magic veer further and further from his tutor’s, a feud between the two develops fueled by hangers-on with their own agendas. Only their common cause against a fairy known simply as “the gentleman”(Marc Warren) can reunite the two greatest magicians in England.

I particularly enjoyed the whimsical alternative history of this series with its references to English magic…which makes me question if each country has its own distinctive variety. As a person who works in a library, I could identify with Mr. Norrell’s attachment to his books. And the love story between Jonathan and his wife, Arabella, (Charlotte Riley) was touching and authentic.

As for the cast, I’ve been a fan of Eddie Marsan for some time so I expected his Mr. Norrell would be eccentrically excellent and he didn’t disappoint. Marc Warren has mastered the creepy, otherworldly vibe as a fairy whose main purpose is to cause havoc in the life of humans.

The most pleasant discovery was Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange. I took notice of this actor after seeing him as scheming Metropolitan Police Communications Deputy Finn Kirkwood in the police dramedy Babylon and then as a sympathetic Nick Clegg in the TV movie Coalition. However, Carvel’s portrayal of passionate novice magician Jonathan Strange, has made me an official fan. His enthusiasm is as contagious as his eventual despair.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell creates a multi-layered world that you’ll want to revisit; whether to pick up tidbits you missed on first viewing or merely to spend more time in that distinctive spellbinding world with its fascinating inhabitants.

 

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Typecasting makes me sad. For example why must Liam Neeson always play an aging action hero bent on revenge or up against the clock to save a member of his family? He used to be Schindler, Rob Roy, Michael Collins and the widowed stepdad in Love Actually for God’s sake!

That’s what Hollywood will do to you I suppose. Which is why I’m happy to find that in the UK a fair number of actors seem to be given the opportunity to flex their acting muscles and explore human conditions of all sorts.

Case in point…

 

Could the besotted young man above possibly be the played by the same actor who portrays a nobleman’s bastard infamous for sadistic deeds such as hunting down a fair maiden for sport?

 

 

It’s not a doppelganger situation. Welsh actor Iwan Rheon’s repertoire ranges from timid, almost invisible characters such as Simon from Misfits…

Rheon plays Simon, a shy troubled young man who gains a superpower in a freak storm image credit Clerkenwell Films

Rheon plays Simon, a shy troubled young man who gains a superpower in a freak storm
image credit Clerkenwell Films

 

To a soldier with an excess of bravado but with his heart in the right place.

In Our Girl, Iwan plays Dylan "Smurf" Smith image credit BBC Drama

In Our Girl, Iwan plays Dylan “Smurf” Smith
image credit BBC Drama

 

Here’s hoping Iwan doesn’t start getting typecast as well.  We’ve already seen he can depict more than psychos. It’d be a shame if he were pinned down to recreating versions of the abhorrent Ramsey Bolton from here on out, no matter how frighteningly good he is at playing him.

Just an aside, who agrees there’s an unsettling similarity between Rheon and the young Marc Warren?

 

 

 

 

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