One guilty pleasure of autumn is watching lots of BBC costume dramas while eating ginger biscuits and drinking Ceylon tea. In my ongoing and rather exhausting search for new material I happened to find an adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South in my hand when leaving a very large record shop in London a couple of weeks ago. And for those of you who, like me, thought that any talk of North and South would be about the American Civil War or northern Italy wanting to leave the poor lazy bastards of southern Italy to their own (mafia) business – well, you will, like me, have to be enlightened. North and South of England. 1850s (I would guess), girl moving from rich, sweet, green, southern landscapes to poor, smoky, grey, northern factory environments. And against her own better judgement falling in love with stern Mr factory owner, John Thornton. It’s been called Pride & Prejudice with a social conscience, and that is not all wrong.
So I enjoyed my ginger snaps watching the lovely pointed nose of drop dead handsome Richard Armitage…
…and then I got something more. A bonus called Sinéad Cusack who plays Mrs Thornton, mother of Richard Armitage’s character. And what a mother! Not really the mother-in-law of anyone’s dreams, but still a very formidable woman with all her pride and stalwartness. Impressive. And impressively performed by Sinéad Cusack. Simply stunning. She has all these little details with her eyes and her general expressions and her language that just welds together a thousand facets of a very credible character.
Here is a small clip where she has a short dialogue with her future daughter-in-law who she utterly dislikes – if not for other reasons (such as being very similar to herself) then for having rejected her son. Fair enough by the way…
After having enjoyed this part so much I made a search and found a wonderful little film starring Ms Cusack when she was very young. It’s a film called Hoffman and she plays opposite Peter Sellers. Sellers is Cusack’s boss who has fallen in love with his young and pretty secretary. By way of blackmail he forces her to spend a week with him in his house hoping that she will fall for him too. Highly unlikely when you see her as she crosses his doorstep.
I know it’s a very short clip but that was all youtube could offer. I think it is highly amusing that this large-eyed darling deer could turn into the firmness that is Mrs Thornton. But it is just Sinéad Cusack being über-cool and I guess I would just be even more in awe if I had had the opportunity of experiencing her carrier on stage, as I understand that is her main occupancy.
Adding to her coolness (if that were possible) is the fact that she is married to Mr Coolness himself: Jeremy Irons. Imagine that! And they are cute too: