Masterpiece Theatre project: Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm (1968), directed by Peter Hammond.

Starring Fay Compton as Aunt Ada Doom, Rosalie Crutchley as Judith Starkadder, Alastair Sim as Amos Starkadder, Brian Blessed as Reuben Starkadder, Peter Egan as Seth Starkadder and Sarah Badel as Flora Poste.

3x episodes, written by David Turner, based on the novel by Stella Gibbons.

Stella Gibbons’ 1932 novel Cold Comfort Farm parodied popular rural novels by the likes of Mary Webb, and as such presents a broad comic vista with highly dramatized characters.  The Starkadder family are distant relations of the recently orphaned Flora Poste, and they are full of dark secrets, neuroses, and emotional issues, which Flora determines to sort out, bringing her relations into the modern world.

As a TV production, this version succeeds as a comedy more than the John Schlesinger-directed version almost thirty years later, mainly due to the ripe and beautifully judged characterisation of God-fearing Amos by Alastair Sim.  balanced by Badel’s unassuming but clever Flora, who charms her cousins and brings a breath of fresh air to the farm.  At three episodes, it is enough to give time to the story and give even the smaller roles (including a young Peter Egan as a primitive Seth) a chance to make an impact.

Performances are generally strong, from the world-weary Crutchley through to the basic machismo of Blessed.  This production is forty-five years old but still feels fresh and relevant, funny and watchable.