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Decline and Fall
Jack Whitehall, David Suchet, Eva Longoria
I don’t know about you, but when I heard that there would be a brand new BBC adaptation of Decline and Fall, I was quite excited and, now that I have seen it, I have to say, I was not disappointed.
Evelyn Waugh has long been one of my favourite English writers, ever since I first saw the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited back in 1981. I subsequently read the book both in German and English and many of his other books, like Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, The Loved One, Black Mischief, A Handful of Dust and Scoop. There is something quintessential English about Evelyn Waugh and I love his style and gentle satire that permeates most of his writings. He was such an excellent observer of mankind and knew how to bring his characters to life on paper.
There have not been many adaptations of his work, maybe people have been put off because Brideshead Revisited had been such an extraordinary one, but I do believe Evelyn Waugh, difficult as he was, would have approved of this Decline and Fall, it’s partly based on his own experiences as a student in Oxford and as a teacher at a boys’ school in North Wales.
Set for a quiet life as a priest, Oxford University student Paul Pennyfeather (played by an excellent Jack Whitehall), is expelled from Scone College through no fault of his own after a chance encounter with the infamous Bollinger Club. With his trust fund now being cut off, Paul is forced to take up a teaching position at a substandard boarding school, run by –if you can call it that – Dr. Fagan (a great role for David Suchet) and his two daughters in Llanabba in rural Wales. But it soon becomes apparent that Paul is not a natural disciplinarian, not helped by the fact that he is supposed to teach subjects he doesn’t have a clue about, and he finds comfort in drinking – to excess – with the other teachers, ‘Prendy’ Prendergast another theologist who has ended up working in a school (Vincent Franklin is wonderful as the resigned, mild mannered educator who will find a grisly end), and the rather unsavoury Grimes (Douglas Hodge is doing a great job making somebody so offensive quite likeable), who finds himself ‘in the soup’ over and over again. Also in the mix is a shady butler and man of many stories, Philbrick (played with just the right amount of menace by Stephen Graham).
When Paul meets beautiful, free spirited Margot Beste-Chetwynde (lovely Eva Longoria has her mix of flightiness and calculating business woman down to a T), a wealthy widow and mother of one of his pupils, young Peter Beste-Chetwynde (Oscar Kennedy), who seems to be more grown up than most of the grown ups, at the schools’ sports day, things start to look up. Could his fortunes finally be changing?
Adapted by James Wood, Decline and Fall is a wonderful British satire, bitter-sweet, dark, but full of wit and humour. Casting and locations are spot on for this period piece set in the late 1920s and the director, Guillem Morales, has given it a beautifully cinematic feel.
Special features include: Three behind the scenes featurettes: Adaptation; Satire; On Set and picture gallery
DVD debut courtesy of Acorn Media International
Release Date: 17 April 2017
Running Time: 3 x 60 mins approx. plus bonus features
RRP: £ 19.99
To win a copy of the DVD please answer the following question:
Where is the school Paul Pennyfeather joins as a teacher?
As always, there are three ways to enter:
- you can enter by commenting with your answer on this article on our website london-olios.com
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Each time you answer or comment it will count as a separate entry, so you can have three chances to win. You can enter until midnight on Sunday 21st of May 2017 and the winner will be contacted privately and announced on the London-Olios website. The winner has two weeks to claim their prize; if a prize goes unclaimed, we will have another draw.
For this competition we accept entries from the UK and Europe.
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