The Barchester Chronicles

I was lucky enough to be given the DVD’s of The Barchester Chronicles as a Christmas present and I’ve just finished viewing it all. I think this was one of the few classic book adaptations which I saw on television before I had read the books, so I had no idea if the BBC had done a good job or not.

I just knew that I really enjoyed the series, well you can’t go far wrong with such a brilliant cast I suppose. It was the first time that I remember seeing Alan Rickman in anything and he made a wonderful job of portraying the ghastly Obadiah Slope. Barbara Flynn looks so young too, it was made in 1988, which I can hardly believe.

Donald Pleasence, Nigel Hawthorne, Geraldine McEwan,Susan Hampshire and Clive Swift are the main players.

The series is based on the novels The Warden and Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope. A newspaper sets out to rid the Church of England of nepotism, using a young local doctor to spearhead the campaign. The reverend Harding, who is well-loved in the local community is targeted by the newspaper and his name is dragged through the press. At times of great stress, Mr Harding (who is in charge of the church music) plays the air cello whilst he is in mid verbal flow. I thought this was a great way of showing how emotional he became and I was pleased to discover that it is in the books.

When the old bishop dies, he is replaced by Bishop Proudie (Clive Swift) and his wife (Geraldine McEwan), with Mrs. Proudie very much the one wearing the bishop’s hat. I think that this might be quite a common occurrence as at the time the series was first aired they were exactly like a certain bishop and wife couple of our acquaintance with a diocese in the west of Scotland.

Throw in Alan Rickman as Obadiah Slope, Mrs. Proudie’s sleazy side-kick and you have a very entertaining series. Don’t be put off by the ecclesiastical ambience of the whole thing.

Trollope seems to have had as much fun with names as Dickens did. One character is called Sir Omicron Pie and there is a Sir Lamda Mewnew, both doctors to the bishop.

It’s a good long while since I read the books but viewing the series again has whetted my appetite so I’m hoping that I enjoy them as much as I did after watching the series the first time.