Drama |The Mystery of Edwin Drood (BBC, 2012)

You’ve got to give it to the BBC, they almost always do an awesome job when it comes to drama adaptations, especially of the classics. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is no exception.

I’ve never actually read this famously unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, but as far as I’m aware, the scriptwriter Gwyneth Hughes stayed pretty close the original storyline – or at least, how much there was of it. This gothic tale is set in the cathedral town of Cloisterham, following the double-life of John Jasper: by day he works as a choirmaster at the cathedral, finding peace in the sublimity of his music; by night, however, he is a psychologically troubled opium addict haunted by drug-fuelled dreams in which he murders his nephew Edwin Drood in order to steal the object of his fantasies – Edwin’s virginal fiancĂ©e, Rosa. The first episode leaves us on a cliff-hanger where, on a dark stormy night, Jasper acts out his dream and strangles Edwin to death with a silk scarf in the cathedral. The second-part of the drama finds Jasper waking up and wondering if what he remembers from last night was real: Edwin is missing from his bed and there is no sign of a body in the cathedral. The rest of the drama is quite fast-paced as the people of Cloisterham try to piece together what happened to Drood, where his body is and ultimately who killed him – if he is indeed dead.

This is a brilliantly clever and emotionally-charged psychological thriller: it had me on my toes until the very end. It’s wonderfully atmospheric with an excellent script and fantastic acting. I don’t think there was any actor in this drama that did not do their character justice. Matthew Rys, of course, stole the show as Jasper – he plays the gothic anti-hero character perfectly: he’s dark, brooding and sick in mind – but somehow, he still ends up stealing our empathy.

I don’t think the ending was particularly Dickensian – it was a little too satisfying and a little too forgiving of Jasper. Nonetheless, I congratulate BBC for another brilliant period drama and look forward to whatever they’re going to hit us with in the coming year.

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