By Siân Ruddick
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A century of drama through the eyes of one village

This article is over 11 years, 3 months old
Issue 2347
Maxine Peake as Grace (left) in the Village

Maxine Peake as Grace (left) in the Village

The Village is a new six-part drama that aims to tell the story of the 20th century through a single English village. 

This is ambitious, and, if the first two episodes are anything to go by, proves too much for this project.

It opens in 1914. It is impossible to tell where this village may be. Some of the characters sometimes have a Yorkshire accent. Others sound like they hail from London’s East End. 

Anyway there are hills, and downtrodden women to distract you from that.

The story centres on the family of impoverished farmer John Middleton (John Simm). He is a bully who spends his money on alcohol as his family struggles to survive.

Their story is told mostly through the eyes of their youngest son, Joe. 

Another central male character is a school teacher who beats Joe for being left handed.

But both these men have hidden weaknesses. 

The farmer has crippling guilt over his past and the teacher feels physically inadequate—he is too short to sign up for the First World War. 

The first episodes deal with the question of votes for women, but the debate takes place around the table of the “big house”, totally removed from ordinary life. 

There is a convincing scene where the Methodist preacher uses his sermon to ask if the First World War is built on a nationalist lie.

But the drama fails to meaningfully develop these important landmarks in the period.

Some of the acting manages to wrestle itself from amateur dramatics. Maxine Peake, who plays Middleton’s wife Grace, adds some much needed depth and sincerity. 

Dull moralism and tedious personal interactions fail to build the suspense needed to show the huge shifts taking place in society at the time.

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