A new period drama set ITVs Autumn listings ablaze in the first of a four-part series dealing with a much under-represented historical event – the 1666 Great Fire of London.
As the night draws in on a hot summer evening, the spark of a bakers’ oven on Pudding Lane in the poorest quarter of London accumulates in a furious inferno. Writers Tom Brady, Chris Hurford and Tom Butterworth weave personal tales of seventeenth-century Londoners amidst the flames, lending the adaptation a unique emotional resonance. Invested in the fates of the fleeing residents, the audience is likely to get burnt as the fire rages on.
The guilty baker, Thomas Farriner (Broadchurch’s Andrew Buchan), may have lost his livelihood, but is in great danger of destroying the entire city if the blaze cannot be tamed. Selflessly rescuing his two young daughters, the baker sets about blasting his property with the communities limited equipment. The Great Fire boasted some hot young talent from Farriner’s daughters Hannah (Polly Dartford) and Mary (Trixiebell Harrowell) as they bravely escape the blaze.
The hedonistic King, Charles II (Jack Huston) appears unlikely to remedy the mounting terror, ignorant of his own dire financial straits during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, let alone the plight of the poor. Despite the advice of his confidante, Samuel Pepys (Daniel Mays), the King pursues his luxurious lifestyle in order to give his subjects a pinnacle to aspire to. Mays conveys Pepys raw ambitious as Charles’ allies battle for influence over the unpopular monarch.
Farriner’s sister-in-law Sarah, Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie, symbolises the forgotten masses as she awaits news of her missing husband. Her lethal connection to her employer, the Catholic Duke of Hanford, adds to her dismay as the kings men seek to eradicate the threat of heresy.
Condensing layers of economic, religious and social history into four episodes marks a grand achievement for a £6.35m Ecosse Films production. This quick-burner is one to watch as the city heats up, leaving desolation in the ashes.