Bleak House is regarded as one of Charles Dickens' best achievements - the greatest ever depiction of Victorian London, from its glittering heights to its very lowest depths; a skilfully crafted thriller; an epic feast of characters and storylines; and a passionate indictment of the legal system that is as searingly relevant today as it was in the mid 19th century.Bleak House In Numbers:# Episodes: 15# Speaking roles: 80# Principal cast members: 40# Weeks of shooting: 21# Extras (in total): 2,000# Extras (in any one scene): 75# First day of shooting: 7th Feb [Charles Dickens' birthday]It was first published in 19 monthly instalments between March 1852 and September 1853. The TV adaptation, written by the award-winning Andrew Davies, comprises a one-hour opening episode followed by 14 half-hour episodes. It will be shown twice weekly, using the pace, multiple storylines and cliff-hanger endings more usually associated with popular drama. The aim is to return Dickens to the broad audience he originally wrote for.It tells the story of the icily beautiful Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson), who nurses a dark secret in her past, and the merciless lawyer Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance), who seeks to uncover it.Then there's the generous John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson), struggling with his own past, and his two attractive young wards Richard (Patrick Kennedy) and Ada (Carey Mulligan). Like Lady Dedlock, they're all caught up in the infamous case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, which will make one of them rich beyond imagination - if it can ever be brought to a conclusion.And there's Esther Summerson (Anna Maxwell Martin), a girl without a past, whom Jarndyce takes under his wing as a companion for Ada, but with whom he falls in love, and whose connection with Lady Dedlock may bring ruin to them both.The cast of characters also contains some of Dickens' most famous creations - Smallweed (Phil Davis), the gleefully malignant moneylender; Miss Flite (Pauline Collins) with her tragic/comic mix of eccentricity and insight; the eccentric, and often drunk Krook (Johnny Vegas); Nemo (John Lynch), the mysterious law writer; Guppy (Burn Gorman), the ambitious young clerk, infatuated with Esther; Bucket (Alun Armstrong) the coolly amoral police inspector, at the centre of fiction's first ever whodunit; and Jo the young crossing sweeper, whose story almost brought Victorian England to a standstill.A BBC Production in association with Deep Indigo, Bleak House is the third collaboration between Andrew Davies and producer Nigel Stafford-Clark, following the acclaimed Trollope adaptations The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right. It's directed by Justin Chadwick (EastEnders and Spooks) and Susanna White (Teachers and Mr Harvey Lights A Candle). Filming took place in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Kent between February and July 2005.
Anna Maxwell Martin