sun 16/06/2024

Roald and Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse, Sky One review – twinkly tale for troubled times | reviews, news & interviews

Roald and Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse, Sky One review – twinkly tale for troubled times

Roald and Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse, Sky One review – twinkly tale for troubled times

Dahl-meets-Potter Christmas drama with Dawn French, Rob Brydon and Jessica Hynes

When Roald meets Beatrix When Roald meets Beatrix

They say "never meet your heroes". That may be true, but it forms the premise of a new TV drama concerning two of the worlds most famous childrens authors – Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl – who encounter each other at opposite ends of their life. 

Dahl has made headlines in recent weeks with his estate apologising for his antisemitic views, most famously, "there is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity”. The family have quietly expressed regret on their website. Like it or not, it casts a shadow over David Kerrs drama which sees Dahl as a young boy (Harry Tayler) coming to terms with the death of his father and little sister, only to set out to meet his hero Beatrix Potter (Dawn French), before being sent off to boarding school. 

What happens to Dahls legacy in wider culture is a moot point for Kerrs festive drama. Putting aside what will happen to Dahls books and the estate’s concerns over future adaptations of his works, this drama from Sky One is just the ticket for this Christmas.

Wrapped up like a festive bon-bon thanks to the nostalgic production design, this is a gently moving tale. Underneath all the sugar frosting lies a message that the best childrens stories arent about escapism, but teaching children to confront and manage the horrors of the world that awaits them. 

French, who has recently reprised her role as Geraldine Granger in The Vicar of Dibley, is excellent as the curmudgeonly Potter. We meet the author of Peter Rabbit in her dotage. Now Mrs. Heelis (as she reminds some intrusive cherry-cheeked carollers), she’s less interested in her animal tales than acquiring more acres for her Lake District farm, Hill Top.

The ten-year-old Dahl is joined by his mother (Jessica Hynes, complete with Norwegian accent) on his pilgrimage to the Lake District. On their travels, they encounter some familiar figures. Theres the BFG. No, not that one – the Bona-Fide Gent. A cockney train driver whos all "weep and wail" and "bees and honey", and a fantastical fox fur that springs to life. Along with these nods to Dahls much-loved works, there are some sweet, romanticised animated flights of fantasy that attempt to give viewers a glimpse into Beatrix Potter’s writing. Whilst no doubt a wildly inaccurate depiction of any actual writing process, they are aesthetically pleasing. 

Sweeter than a tin of condensed milk and just as retro, Kerrs drama is a balm. Whilst full of sugar-coated magic,  it retains just enough bitter reality to make it work. 

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