Sunday, 1 May 2011

Vera: Hidden Depths - review

Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn as DI Vera Stanhope, kicked off this evening with an adaptation of Hidden Depths. It was an interesting choice of story, because the first Vera book Ann Cleeves wrote was The Crow Trap. However, my own feeling when it came out originally was that Hidden Depths was a very strong novel, with an especially gripping opening, and this may partly explain the choice. In any event, if you haven't read them yet, the books can be read out of sequence without any difficulty or major spoilers at all.

Brenda Blethyn makes a very likeable, if at times surprisingly emotional, Vera, and the cast included Murray Head - whom I think of more as a singer, but who was excellent in his role as a catalyst for crime - and Juliet Aubrey, who played his glamorous wife. The North East locations were terrific, as good in their way as the Oxford settings in Inspector Morse. The finale was a touch melodramatic, but that is the way with television dramas, and its setting, in a spooky ruined castle, was very atmospheric.

Having followed Ann's career for so long, it was a great pleasure for me to see her work on the telly at last, so I don't suppose I am the most objective judge, but suffice to say that I thought this was a really enjoyable programme.

The timing of the show is, I think, marvellous, in that we've had a bank holiday week-end, and there is a feelgood factor around in many quarters after the Royal Wedding. I've read that the BBC have ditched Zen because there are 'too many male TV detectives'. Silly reasoning, in my opinion, but at least Vera is an original and refreshing character, as well as (much less important, I think) a woman.

One final point. I've encouraged Ann to contribute some copies of the scripts and materials to the CWA archives. At some date in the future, I hope we will have a fascinating record of the genesis of what I confidently expect to be a long running and very successful series.


Fiona said...

I'm very pleased to hear you enjoyed the dramatisation, Martin: we haven't watched it yet but intend to catch it in a day or two. I hope it is well received by critics and viewers alike.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I enjoyed 'Vera' too. I haven't read any of Ann Cleeves's Vera Stanhope books so I can't judge how true to the book it is (which for me is a good thing). Brenda Blethyn's portrayal indicates she is an interesting character. (I did think there were an awful lot of scenes where she was marching either towards or away from the camera.) The scenery is spectacular!

A minor point - my husband commented that it must be us, because we used to live near Oxford (Morse country) and in Midsomer Murderland and now that we've moved to Northumberland we have more TV murders with Vera!

Deb said...

I'm glad to hear that Murray Head is still acting. In my teens (those far-off 1970s), he was well-known for major roles in "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (which featured a then-controversial male-male kiss with Peter Finch). Some years later he had a big hit with "One Night in Bangkok" from the musical "Chess." Then he just sort of dropped off the radar, so it's nice to know he's still working.

Dorte H said...

I can see that Hidden Depths with the body in the bath is great for TV, yet the drama and setting of The Crow Trap should also make some fantastic scenes. But some media seem to think anything older than five years is ancient (just like most of my students).

Uriah Robinson said...

Martin- I have just watched a recording of Hidden Depths, and while I haven't read any of the Vera Stanhope books I can this series has a lot going for it. The Northumberland scenery, interesting locations and Brenda Blethyn, but I agree with Margaret that some of the direction seemed strange. Possibly two hours was not long enough for this complex story, and this was the reason for Vera marching around all the time.
Vera is very different from most detectives on TV. She is certainly no Laure Berthaud [Spiral] or Sarah Lund [The Killing] so hopefully this series will be a success.

Martin Edwards said...

Very interesting comments. Thank you, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's episode.

Anonymous said...

What does Joe ask Vera at the end? It sounded like he asked her to be a "dociana" to his new baby girl, Francesca?