Unless you were in the drama department of the BBC, you might have thought that audibility is a prerequisite of an actor. However in Jamaica Inn the publican of the Inn was incomprehensible with a combination of muffled diction and Cornish burrh. Given the success of Nordic noir, they might even have provided subtitles. If you strain to comprehend the lines it necessarily means the plot is hard to follow. This is all the sadder as Daphne du Maurier is a consummate story teller. Eighteen of her novels became films some of which, like Rebecca and Don’t Look Now, very good ones. So the BBC succeeded in the difficult task of ruining an adaptation.
There was much location shooting, including numerous shots of the heroine Mary Yellan striding through fields with a purposeful air, much like that other favourite shot – the politican striding through the corridors of power acolytes in his/her wake. At various points I debated whether I had enough already as I doubted whether I would watch the next two in which the BBC has hastily announced the mumbling is addressed.
It just about sums up the lamentable state of BBC drama that they should mess up so comprehensively. As a great Daphne du Maurier fan, I regret that they have done an enormous disservice to an author unjustly labelled as romantic and out of date when in fact she can spin a yarn with much imagination. The House on the Strand, with its narratives both in the present and the civil war of King Stephen, would make a fascinating drama, as would the exchanged adoption of identity in The Scapegoat. Jamaica Inn is not regarded as amongst her best and this production will ensure it remains so.