The BBC adaptation of Jk Rowling's first grown-up novel 'The Casual Vacancy' aired on Sunday night (February 15th 2015) following much anticipation from fans of the book, and it certainly wasn't a disappointment.
Rory Kinnear plays friendly neighbour Barry Fairbrother in 'The Casual Vacancy'
Starring Michael Gambon and Rory Kinnear as political rivals, the first episode of the 3-part BBC miniseries saw a mixture of respectful adherence to the novel coupled with some artistic nuances that turned up the suspense tenfold. Screenwriter Sarah Phelps ('Great Expectations', 'The Crimson Field') was seamless in her translation from book to small-screen and director Jonny Campbell ('Alien Autopsy', 'Phoenix Nights') will no doubt draw in a lot more recognition with this nail-biting series.
The biggest difference between the book and the first episode is the extent of Barry Fairbrother's role in the latter. While in the book, you don't get much of a chance to get to know this Pagford Parish Council hero and, indeed, become attached before his untimely passing at the start of the story, Rory Kinnear presents a charming neighbour, who shows love and understanding to the most unfortunate of characters. From picking up heroin-addict mother of two Terri Weedon to savagely defending the existence of Dr. Parminder Jawanda's methadone clinic during a particularly heated Council meeting, we are introduced to the protector of the sleepy village of Pagford and its council estate counterpart the Fields - and are thus a little broken-hearted at his fatal collapse.
Michael Gambon is distinctly unlikeable as Howard Mollison in 'The Casual Vacancy'
It's very difficult to find Michael Gambon an unlikeable person in any circumstance, but his part as bigoted deli owner Howard Mollison sure challenges that perception, likewise with Richard Glover's vicious interpretation of Barry's heartless half-brother Simon Price. In fact, there's some serious talent throughout the entire cast even from the lesser known side; Keeley Forsyth's remarkable depiction of Terri is heartbreaking, while her onscreen daughter Krystal, played by Abigail Lawrie, oozes the right mixture of rebelliousness and, at the same, a regard for the law. An impressive television debut from this acting newcomer.
Viewers will definitely also be looking forward to more onscreen action from teenage best buds Arf and Fats (Joe Hurst and Brian Vernel respectively), the sexually unfulfilled lingerie boutique owner Samantha Mollison (Keeley Hawes) and nervous headmaster Colin Wall (Simon McBurney) who's standing to fill Barry's vacancy. Plus, messages start appearing on the Parish Council website signed 'The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother' - but who could possibly be sending them?
Episode two of 'The Casual Vacancy' will air on BBC One on February 22nd 2015. The series will be aired on HBO in the US.
Keeley Hawes' character has some family issues in 'The Casual Vacancy'