The Old Curiosity Shop

May 4th, 2009 - 11:01 pm ICT by GD  

A ninety minute version of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop brings to an end an ambitious and admirable series by the PBS Masterpiece. The adaptation has streamlined the plot. The characters and even the tone, perhaps a little too much.

The team included Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones and Zoë Wanamaker. It is certainly a watchable piece but not the best that could have been done with Dickens.

Most of the plot has been used: Little Nell, played by Sophie Vavasseur, lives with her grandfather, a kind but irresponsible old man. The latter role is played by Jacobi. Nell’s grandfather gambles his money away and is completely in debt to Quilp, played by Jones. Quilp is an evil dwarf and now he demands that Nell and her grandfather have to leave the shop in Quilp’s hands. They leave the country and here begins their various adventures. These have been abridged. Nell is helped by her loyal friend Kit (George MacKay). Kit, prompted by a mysterious stranger, does all he can in order to find Nell and her grandfather before they are tracked by Quilp and Dick Swiveller (Geoff Breton). The climax of the novel is presented differently from how Dickens had written it.

“The Old Curiosity Shop” is perhaps one of the most sentimental of all Dickens’ work.

It is therefore understandable that screenwriter Martyn Hesford and director Brian Percival should have wanted to tone down the sentimentalism. Since the novel has had to be trimmed down to keep up with the time limitations, Nell’s journey with her grandfather has been curtailed and thus many excellent characters have had to be left out. Wanamaker performs excellently as Mrs. Jarley, Codlin’ and Short are absent.

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