The Durrells: English eccentrics abroad

November 17, 2017

 

If you like your television viewing to be quirky, picturesque and quietly amusing, The Durrells will fit the bill nicely.


The series is based on the autobiographical novels naturalist Gerald Durrell wrote about his family’s life on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939.


Struggling English widow Louisa Durrell decides to up sticks and transplant her family of three sons and a daughter to sunny Corfu, to escape the dreariness and misery of her life in England’s Bournemouth.


Louisa (Keeley Hawes) was ahead of her time in seeking a sea change, but Corfu isn’t quite the paradise she imagined, without electricity or an inside toilet. However, life there is cheaper than England and Louisa is sure she can make it work.


The series could well be titled English Eccentrics Abroad, and that’s a huge part of its charm. This is not a family where children were supposed to be seen and not heard, as Lawrence (Josh O’Connor) is already a professional writer and Leslie (Callum Woodhouse) is obviously a painter with talent, while teenage Margo (Daisy Waterstone) is searching for her own identity, and the baby of the family, Gerry (Milo Parker), is busy filling the house with his beloved animals.


Unlike many families of the time, matriarch Louisa encourages her children to have plenty to say for themselves and follow their dreams. The family continues to struggle financially but Louisa finds several schemes to keep bread on the table and, as time goes on, discovers another chance at love.


As with many well-made British series, the elders of the acting fraternity shine in guest roles. A recent episode featured Louisa’s Cousin Hermione (Barbara Flynn, who readers may recall as Beatrix Potter’s mother in Miss Potter) and a fake medium, Mrs Craddock, played with great relish by 80-year-old Una Stubbs, memorable from her young days in the old British sitcom Til Death Do Us Part.


Combining golden talent like this with the young guns of the television world is a recipe for good viewing, and The Durrells doesn’t disappoint.


It’s interesting to see where its fans come from. On The Durrells’ very active Facebook page, viewers who love the show hail from Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States.


The series has spurred some viewers to seek out the location of the original Durrell White House on Corfu, and several people posted that the show was the reason they planned holidays in Corfu. To prove it, several people posted location shots on the island.


Corfu is a marvellously photogenic location, and the relationships and occasional clashes between the way the locals do things and the resident English eccentrics provide great comedy-drama.

 

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