Little Dorrit

I'm reposting this article in anticipation of LITTLE DORRIT making its American debut on March 29 on PBS! I thought this series was a first-rate production with a multitude of characters to charm and entertain us. Starring Matthew Macfadyen & Claire Foy, with a stellar cast not to be missed!

This timeless rags to riches story
concerns the vacillating fortunes of the Dorrit family.
Written by Charles Dickens,
with screenplay by Andrew Davies.

Link to screencaps, interviews, wallpapers, production stills, etc.

~ Amy Dorrit is born in the infamous Marshalsea Prison of mid-nineteenth century England. Her father, Wiiliam Dorrit, has been imprisoned for being unable to clear his debts. Her broken spirited mother dies shortly after Amy is born. Amy grows up to be a young woman without any knowledge of the world outside the prison walls. She is not pretty like her elder sister, Fanny - the prison atmosphere seems to have stunted her physical growth. At the age of twenty-two, she looks like a child of ten, and is painfully aware of the fact. But she is the one on whom the entire family depends. She takes care of her father, who has lost his dignity through his long incarceration. She sends her lazy elder brother, Edward, out to work. Both she and Fanny earn their living working as seamstresses in the city. She also looks after Maggy, a mentally unsound young woman, and even Frederick, William Dorrit's brother. Amy soon gets to know her stern employer's son, Arthur Clennam. Arthur is a quiet, middle aged man, always serious and thoughtful, the complete antithesis of his strict, rigid, unyielding mother. Arthur had a bitter and lonely childhood, and a broken love affair in his youth has made him sad, but not bitter or cynical . He is extremely sensitive to other people's emotions and sentiments, and his feelings of pity for his poor employee leads him to take a further interest in Amy and her family. He also knows that his mother is somehow responsible for the condition of Amy's family. While Arthur's interest in Amy seemed to be confined to paternal kindness and benevolence, the young, inexperienced Amy soon finds herself getting attracted to this quiet, sensitive, pensive man.
(summary from Shvoong)

Claire Foy: "She's kind, giving, sweet, virginal, something of a Samaritan and a devout believer in the truth. Dickens wrote her as a bit of an angel, but I've tried to keep her real; she gets fed up with her dad, but has this capacity for seeing beyond people's behaviour and focusing on the goodness underneath. In terms of love, I think she's confused that, while fond of John Chivery, the young jailer, she doesn't feel romantically drawn to him. She doesn't realise what love is until she's about to lose it, which is maybe why her thing with Arthur Clennam is about the slowest-burn relationship of all time!"

Tom Courtenay: "Before he came to Marshalsea Prison, Mr Dorrit was an accomplished, educated man, who spoke several languages and had a comfortable life. Over the years, he has become more vain and self-deluded. While he is in prison, he is happy for people to know his story - in fact, he tells it to everyone. Once free, though, he hates people knowing about it, and as a consequence finds it upsetting to be in Amy's presence because [having been born in Marshalsea] she reminds him of prison… She serves as a walking reminder that he was actually happier when he was behind bars."

Emma Pierson: "Amy's sister Fanny has worldly experience. She's mainly been brought up away from the prison, earns her living as a dancer and enjoys trying to climb the social hierarchy. You can understand her toughness: her father told her that even though he was in a debtors' prison, she was still a lady."

James Fleet: "William's brother Frederick is a bit vague and on a different planet. Once he was quite well-to-do, but now makes a meagre living playing the clarinet in the musical theatre. He's still close to William, and visits him each week in prison. But there's an emptiness in Frederick - some terrible tragic sorrow in his past."

Matthew Macfadyen: "There's something quite lonely about Arthur. He's had this austere childhood in which he's been constantly judged by his awful, cold mother, and he's been packed off to the East to work in a job he doesn't enjoy. Now he's back and, after what his dying father has told him, he has this feeling there's something that needs to be put right in his family. As for Amy, yes, he's slow off the mark - but I think a lot of people have been in that position where you're thrilled when someone arrives and sad when they go, yet it only gradually dawns on you why. Not that Arthur is some innocent: he's a man of the world, and his great talent is he can talk to anyone."

Judy Parfitt: "Mrs Clennam is quite a sad character. She's never known love and is locked inside herself. She has this fabrics business, and hasn't left her house for 15 years. This role is the best I've ever done in a wheelchair! I've played several wheelchair-bound women before, and they're all incredibly strong, interesting characters but, like Mrs Clennam, enourmously vulnerable."

Alun Armstrong: "Jeremiah is the old retainer at the Clennams' and he and Mrs Clennam scheme together. He has a crooked neck and that's physically demanding to play. Where he's all stiff, his twin Ephraim is all wobbly. In a couple of scenes I played both - that was quite a challenge."

Sue Johnston: "Affery [Mrs Clennam's maid] is a sweetheart really, one of life's lost souls. She's been bullied by Flintwinch and Mrs Clennam and she's a nervous wreck. Affery is like a little bird - she's always listening and watching. Flintwinch tells her she's insane, but by the time it all unravels, she has a lot of answers."

Andy Serkis: "The villain Rigaud is a man who lusts for life: he's Dionysian, he's a charmer, he's dangerous. He'll make you feel like the centre of attention, but he's a conman. He invades your space, he'll take over the situation. He's a very sexual animal; he's theatrical, pretentious, he's the underdog. This man is thinking all the time. And he's a murderer. He sniffs his way into the story, and uncovers the hypocrisy and lies as well as the true identities of Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit. He operates on his senses, seeking out his next thrill."

Ron Cook: "As you can tell from his hat, Mr Chivery is a very self-important man - he's the Turnkey [jailer] of Marshalsea Prison. But, for all his faults, he really cares for Amy Dorrit and he knows that his son John is hopelessly in love with her."

Russell Tovey: "He's kind, honest, sensitive and incapable of hiding anything. Amy is everything to him, and he can't understand why she doesn't feel the same - they grew up together in this claustrophobic little world of the prison."

Bill Paterson: "Retired banker Mr Meagles describes himself as a practical man, concerned with getting things done. He's entrepreneurial and determined to cut through the red tape of bureaucratic government department the Circumlocution Office. We meet him early on in Marseilles, bumping into Arthur Clennam. Meagles immediately thinks that he's a splendid man and the ideal alternative to the bad boy courting his daughter."

Georgia King: "Like all the characters, Pet faces her own prison and it's not clear at first what that will be. She's incredibly spoilt. I think younger girls and parents will relate to Pet. She has the best of intentions, but no idea of the effect she has on people. She might break a heart or two without realising. She's naive, but she learns and grows in time. It makes her a little wiser…and a little less annoying!"

Freema Agyeman: "Her real name is Harriet Beadle. She was adopted by the Meagles [from the Coram Foundling Hospital]. They're well meaning, but treat her like the help. She's resentful and doesn't quite know where she fits in. Then Miss Wade comes along and offers her a way out."

Maxine Peake: "She'a woman spurned and is out for vengeance. She's had a tough time and trusts nobody. She's been living in Marseilles and comes back on the boat with the Meagles. She's been stalking Pet and feels Tattycoram is her way into the family."

Anton Lesser: "Merdle is a banker, with the friendships and influences that come with having money: he's lauded by peers and politicians, movers and shakers…but it's a very hollow life, and one that, ultimately, ends in disaster. What's going on with Merdle is the price of success. It's incredibly topical right now."

Amanda Redman: "Mrs Merdle is married to a Victorian magnate: he's her second husband and terribly boring, but he's rich and she's a survivor. She's the queen of society: what she wears is the fashion. Her son Edmund's besotted with Fanny Dorrit, but Mrs Merdle doesn't want him anywhere near her, as she's a common dancer."

Ruth Jones: "Flora thinks of herself as a girl, but she's in her 40s. Time stopped still in her 20s when her first love, Arthur Clennam, went to work in China, and she still carries a torch for him. She wed Mr Finching, but he died soon after. Life didn't turn out as she'd hoped, but she's not bitter - she helps Arthur and eats a lot of jelly."

Eve Myles: "Amy's best friend Maggy had a fever at ten that left her a child in an adult's body. She has alopecia and very little hair - it took more than two hours in make-up. But she has a big heart. It was a huge challenge: I tried to capture all the joy and energy of a child."

Alex Wyndham: "Henry is a bit of a loud, society cad - very much the opposite of Arthur Clennam. And he really manages to put Arthur's nose out of joint when he wins the heart of Pet Meagles, the girl Arthur fancies. Not many people like him, but we all know bad guys are more interesting to play."

Eddie Marsan: "Pancks is the debt collector from hell: truly terrifying to the people whose doors he knocks on. We modelled his look on a bulldog, and gave him a shaved head even though the book says he's got thick, dark hair. Debt-collecting isn't just a job to Pancks, it's a calling; he can't abide people who don't pay up and is violently against cheats of all kinds."

Jason Thorpe: "He's what you'd call a loveable rogue: he's cheeky, with a glint in his eye, and people take a shine to him, despite being a petty criminal. The Italian accent was quite tricky. I practised by listening to Roberto Benigni [star of the film Life Is Beautiful] interviews."

- is Mrs Merdle's son from her first marriage and heir to the enormous Merdle fortune. He is a thoroughly well-meaning young man, but he's not got much between the ears. He is more or less happy to be told what to do by his interfering mother. He's got an eye for the ladies but, to his mother's horror, he particularly adores the entirely unsuitable young dancer, Fanny Dorrit.

- is a triumph of genteel respectability. A widow, she has set herself up as a 'companion to ladies'. She hates to be thought of as a working woman and when Mr Dorrit employs her to 'finish' his daughters, she adopts the pretence that she is a friend of the family, rather than a governess. She is extremely strict about decorum, putting Amy and Fanny through a gruelling training regime.


- lives in Bleeding Heart Yard with her husband, Mr Plornish, and their large brood of children. In spite of living in poverty and hardship, she is a cheerful and generous character. For example, she takes Cavalletto under her wing when he first arrives in London, and is extremely proud of her innate ability to talk to him in fluent Italian.

Amy and Fanny's brother, Tip, is both rakish and dissolute. He has no sense of responsibility whatsoever and is always running up large gambling debts. He can be pompous and cruel but ultimately he's just a young man with a taste for the high life who wants to have fun. He's not clever like his sisters, and there's the sense that he will be very lucky indeed if he manages to land on his feet.


- played by Harriet Walter, she has a few scenes but is fascinating to watch as always

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! Only a few more days until it begins! : )



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