If you were just about to be administered with an enema, the words âhigh, hot and a hell of a lotâ? would certainly not be music to your ears. Particularly not if Pam Ferris, in her guise as no-nonsense nun and midwife, Sister Evangelina, was in charge. But this brusquely administered pre-delivery procedure sets the tone perfectly for new BBC series, Call The Midwife.
After much pushing and panting, the BBC delivered its latest drama baby last night and, from the look of episode one, it is sure to be a hit with the Sunday night crowd. Set in the East end of 1950s London, the series brings to life the inspiring/heart-wrenching stories told by the late Jennifer Worth (nee Lee) in her bestselling memoir of the same name.
First on the impressively reconstructed East end scene was Jessica Raine as rookie midwife, Jenny. After being introduced to her new surroundings, deep in the heart of the cockney community (cue street brawls and general bedlam aplenty), we arrived with the red-lipped young vixen at her new place of work. Thus began some intense and unpredictable training. One harrowing solo delivery and a potentially devastating stillborn birth later, those shiny eyes were beginning to look just a little more glazed.
Nonnatus House is also home to habit-clad British greats Judy Parfitt, Jenny Agutter and Laura Main who joined Pam Ferris on the ranks of the firm but fair nuns. Their performances alone are almost reason enough to stay tuned for the next five weeks. But Parfitt is particularly noteworthy for her portrayal of the slightly nutty, Sister Monica Joan. Her eccentric ramblings provide some much-need lightness in the midst of yet more tortured birth moans, without ever crossing the mark into farce.
The programme did lose pace slightly when one kitchen table discussion scene was followed by another…and another. But now that the introductions are out of the way, hopefully the plot can take a few leaps forward next week. Bringing to life memoirs is all very well but we Sunday night drama fans need a little more in the way of an overarching storyline to be completely satisfied.
Next week will see Miranda Hart take to the screen as newly qualified bag of nerves, Chummy. Having already had a sneaky press launch peak at her performance, we can exclusively reveal that viewers should be pleasantly suprised. There may be a familiar Miranda-esque twang to Hartâs Chummy but she is far more accomplished at the âserious stuffâ? than one might first assume.
In truth, the all-female cast provides a refreshing break from the love triangles/squares/pentagons which plague many other period drama productions. It is refreshing also to see a cast full of women and not one back-stabbing, bitch-mongering storyline in sight. A faithfulness to the descriptions and phrases used by Worth herself lend the programme real backbone and protect it from the BBC schmatlz which could have taken hold.