THE Luminaries is a lavish new BBC One drama set in the midst of New Zealand’s gold rush in 1866.
While women were scarce at that point in time, author Eleanor Catton has thankfully managed to make the BBC’s adaptation of her Man Booker Prize-winning novel have a female-focus.
Eva Green plays the villainous Lydia Wells, a greedy American who runs a fortune parlour, while Eve Hewson plays Anna Wetherell, a beautiful young woman forced into sex work.
Both women fizz on screen in their respective roles, and I couldn’t help but get swept away in Eva’s flowing, exotic costumes as well as her scene-stealing performances.
While women at that time were often prim, corseted and flat, Lydia fills the screen in every way with her flowing gowns and hair – hats off to the costume department.
Lydia cons Anna into working in her brothel, and the tension between them makes for a riveting watch.
Both women also end up central to the drama’s mystery after Lydia’s husband Crosbie Wells is found dead surrounded by gold bars.
Lydia is far from heartbroken though, as she is in the midst of a passionate affair with ex-convict and all round bad boy Francis Carver.
Meanwhile Anna has a star-crossed love story of her own after meeting a man called Emery Staines – played by former EastEnders actor Himesh Patel – on the boat over to New Zealand.
Fans of Eleanor’s book will be thrilled to see the origins of their relationship play out on screen, and the two actors quickly establish a strong chemistry which should keep viewers gripped to their plight throughout the series.
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However, the first episode of the new drama wasn’t perfect, as the flashforward scenes were so dark, it was hard to tell what was happening.
This took some of the impact away from key scenes, and so at times, The Luminaries needs to be a little more illuminating.
But overall, The Luminaries is a lavish and luscious bit of escapism which is much needed right now and certainly worth a watch.
The Luminaries continues tonight at 9pm on BBC One.