Described as “an anarchic Downton Abbey”, BBC’s new comedy-drama, Decline and Fall, is set to be a smash hit, with stand-up comedian and Fresh Meat star Jack Whitehall leading an all-star cast.
Adapted from Evelyn Waugh’s 1928 novel, the three-part series follows the life of Paul Pennyweather (Whitehall), a student who is expelled from Oxford University for “indecent behaviour”. After being disinherited and forced to take a job at a prep school in north Wales, he encounters many more calamitous events and characters, including wealthy widow Margot Beste-Chetwynde, played by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria.
They’re joined by David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot) as ‘lunatic scholar’ Dr. Fagan, Douglas Hodge (The Night Manager), Stephen Graham (This Is England) and Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones).
The show was adapted by screenwriter James Wood, known for the popular BBC comedy Rev, and filmed in over 70 locations in Wales, including Cardiff’s Pinewood Studios and on location in the city.
Whitehall said at a recent screening in London: “When the scripts arrived in front of me I was so excited because I knew the book as well. It was my father’s favourite book and he gave it to me and I read it when I was a teenager at school. It really appealed to me, the comedy of it, and the sort of darkness and wickedness of it really appealed to my sensibilities.”
Decline and Fall was Waugh’s first published novel, written as a satire based on his student days at Oxford University and experience as a teacher in north Wales. The BBC production marks 50 years since Waugh’s death.
Critics are calling Decline and Fall ‘warm’, ‘lively’ and ‘impressive’, with the spotlight on Whitehall’s acting prowess. “[Whitehall] was born to play Paul Pennyweather,” writes The Guardian.
Decline and Fall airs Friday 31st March on BBC One at 9pm.