J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is brought to life on screen

Kettlemag, TV, BBC, The Casual Vacancy, Kealie Mardell
Written by Kealie Mardell

BBC One launched an adaption of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy  last week, taking the Sunday night drama ratings by storm. The Casual Vacancy beat out Channel 4’s Indian Summers and ITV’s Mr Selfridge, with overnight figures showing an average of 6.6 million viewers. But does the highly anticipated show live up to expectations?

Fans of the novel will know that it became an instant bestseller with conflicting reviews in 2012. Described as a ‘tragicomedy’, audiences moved far away from the world of Harry Potter into something with a completely different style and substance for Rowling.

Set in the idyllic village of Pagford, The Casual Vacancy sees the death of heroic Parish councillor, Barry Fairbrother, leave the community in turmoil. Secrets and deceit are unearthed, drawing even your own judgement into question.  

The focus of the story looks at parish councillors voting on the outcome of the less-than-idyllic neighbouring estate of Fields. In the BBC version, we see this in place as a vote on whether or not to turn the community centre (home of counselling, food banks and methadone clinics for Field residents) into a luxury hotel and spa. The class war is uprooted – let the battle cries begin.

If you haven’t read the book I won’t give away any more of the story, but taking what was a page-turner to fit together the pieces of intertwining stories, it’s easy to imagine how this can translate into bite sized chunks for the three part TV adaptation.  

The BBC drama draws stars including Michael Gambon, and promises to stay close to the original story – except for the ending. Scriptwriter Sarah Phelps decided to change the TV ending to feature a “redemptive moment” as the novel’s conclusion was too “grim.”

This was disappointing to discover, as it was the grim reality that made The Casual Vacancy such a powerful and thought provoking tale. However, Rowling has said she is thrilled with the adaptation, and if it’s good enough for her, who are we to complain?

So far, we’ve seen the community and characters set in place. Time will tell how the next episode sees the tale unravel, and what the outcome of the redemptive ending will show. See you next Sunday! 

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.