Don’t rain on the Parade

10 Sep

It has been dubbed ‘the intellectual Downton Abbey’ and the first episode drew in whopping 3.1 million viewers for the BBC. It’s the Friday night drama, produced by Tom Stoppard and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall and Adelaide Clemens, which has prompted people across the UK to swap their Friday night plans for an hour sat in front of their televisions, stepping into the society of World War One Britain.

If you still haven’t got a clue what I’m referring to, I will put you out of you misery. It’s Tom Stoppard’s stunning new drama: Parade’s End. Based on the Ford Madox Ford novels (c. 1924-28), the drama is in full swing and if you haven’t been watching it so far – I would strongly recommend you do.

Parade’s End offers the viewer insight into the social and morale sphere of Christopher Tietjens, the last gentleman in a society whose values are being overhauled (and dare I say, corrupted) by the dawn of the twentieth century and, of course, the Great War. The intellectual Tietjens marries the stunningly beautiful and flirtatious Sylvia, who is unable resist tormenting men with her beauty. She repeatedly enters into extra-marital relations with other men right under Christopher’s nose, yet despite her behaviour, he persists with the marriage, guided by his strong sense of commitment to monogamy. Whilst those around him fall victim to their bodily and emotional desires, Christopher remains a bastion for chastity and morals; idealistic in his outlook and exemplary in his behaviour. Even when he meets and develops strong feelings for Valentine Wannop, a feisty and equally strong-minded suffragette, he continually illustrates a self-restraint that Sylvia and his many acquaintances cannot begin to understand.

However, with the dawn of the First World War, the world in which he lives in is shaken. Both on a macro and micro scale, previous certainties are questioned and conspiracy and rumour creep into public and private life. Christopher’s experiences in the trenches prompt a re-evaluation of his existence and from this point onwards, the narrative evolves dramatically, distantly mirroring the conflict and torment of the front line.

The drama, like the novel, is a complex exploration of a world where the status quo is constantly shifting and previous certainties are no longer secure. It is a vivid depiction of the fine line between the public and the private; success and failure; morality and immorality; and Stoppard successfully presents this in both a compelling and emotive way.

Although viewing figures have dropped since the first episode, losing out to Channel 4’s Paralympics, the drama has continued to receive rave reviews, which are certainly well deserved. I have been entranced by this beautifully adapted drama which explores an important and traumatic part of British history from a personal and unique perspective. From war to love, snobbery to downfall; Parade’s End depicts a whole spectrum of early twentieth century society, making this well cast and brilliantly directed drama a must to watch.
Rating: *****


About the Writer: Ellie is a history graduate and PR Consultant. She loves reading, dipping into 1984, Harry Potter and The Bell Jar. When she hasn’t got her nose in a book she enjoys creative writing, museums and galleries across the UK. When she has the time, she also likes nothing more than catching up with a few friends over dinner and a cocktail or two!


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