A BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Arnold Bennett's tale of love, tyranny and rebellion, Anna of the Five Towns. Originally broadcast as the 'Classic Serial' in two parts on 6 and 13 March 2011.
Brought up in the repressive tradition of Methodism by her miserly father, Anna Tellwright dreams of independence and freedom. On coming of age she learns that she is to inherit a fortune and realises that she is loved by the charismatic Henry Mynors. But with the money comes responsibility, and Anna's growing concern for William, the son of one of her tenants, leads her to a defiant act that threatens everything....
Arnold Bennett's 'Anna of the Five Towns' was dramatised by Helen Edmundson, and stars Charlotte Riley as Anna, David Schofield as Tellwright, Emilia Harker as Young Agnes and Michael Socha as William. Also featured amongst the cast are James Masters, Lee Williams, Rosina Carbone, Olwen May, Andrew Westfield, Jonathan Keeble and Jacqueline Redgwell.
Public Domain ©2011 AudioGO Ltd
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I cannot fault the acting and the production values which are up to high BBC standards. The actors capture their characters well and, disregarding the first three and the last two minutes, it is faithful to the book and captures the small town atmosphere well. The coming of age of Anna Tellwright is very well done. This is a detailed story where small things mean a lot and they are all there. However, I think the adaptation itself is fundamentally flawed because of those first three and last two minutes.
The opening minutes set the scene and, crucially, the characters all find out something tragic that Arnold Bennett deliberately kept from the characters in his book. In his last line, he delivers a piece of information about one of the main characters, William Price, and has the reader imagine the life of Anna comforted by thoughts of something that we know is not true. In this adaptation, they all find out about this news in the opening three minutes and the rest of the story (which does remain faithful) leads up to this point. I don't mind a little bit of dramatic licence but this changes the whole tone of the piece and is just wrong.
There are enough tragic events that alter the lives of the characters but the book at least leaves us with some small glimmer of light and this adaptation sweeps it away at the stroke of a pen and gives a completely different outcome in a way that I cannot forgive and which spoils my enjoyment of the drama.
If you know the book, prepare for the shock of the opening scene, after which it gets back on track until the closing two minutes.
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