Noel Streatfield’s novel Ballet Shoes has been well-loved by little girls and not-so little girls everywhere for decades now, so it was important that the BBC did it justice with their Boxing Day adaptation. BBC doing period drama – did you ever expect it to fail?
Of course not, and all expectations were easily matched. The fabulous cast included some of our favourite established actors – including Dame Eileen Atkins, Victoria Wood, Marc Warren and Emilia Fox – but, if anything, they were all outshone by the young actresses playing the three adoptive sisters intent on getting their names into the history books.
The story follows three little orphans who have been adopted by an eccentric paleontologist, Gum, (I would wager that most paleontologists are a little bit eccentric) who often goes on travels round the world, leaving them in the care of Sylvia (Fox) – the first person to receive Gum’s charity – and Nana (Wood). Money troubles mean that Sylvia invites lodgers to stay in the enormous house, and it is these newcomers who put the girls on the road to stardom.
First to arrive is Mr Simpson, played by Marc Warren in unusually understated form – truly he is one of our most versatile actors. Quiet, reserved, and clearly feeling the effects of some recent sadness, he quickly befriends the middle child Petrova, who is obsessed with engines and blessed with good sense, and so helps him do up his fabulous motor car. The other children – Pauline and little Posy – are much more extroverted and wayward than their sensible sister, and are instantly taken with another lodger, Miss Theo Dane. Theo used to be an actress and now teaches at Madame Fidolia’s performing arts school, where she suggests the children attend.
Over time, it is clear that Pauline and Posy were destined for the stage. Pauline is a natural actress (after some iambic pentameter coaching from the final lodgers, academics Dr Jakes and Dr Jones) and Posy shows such promise with her ballet that she is taken under the direct tutelage of Madame. Meanwhile, Petrova takes small acting roles to help with the bills, but most enjoys working on Mr Simpson’s car, and a lovely relationship develops between Mr Simpson and Sylvia.
And that, quite simply, is the main outline of the plot. Not a whole lot happens, but as I said earlier, the real enjoyment came from the acting of the girls playing the sisters. As the eldest, Pauline, Emma Watson has instantly stepped out from the shadow of Hermione Granger and shown herself to be incredibly talented. Petrova was played by Yasmin Paige who simply continued her wonderful work as Maria in The Sarah Jane Adventures. And finally Lucy Boynton, as Posy, impressed not only with her acting, but also with her ballet – finally, an actress playing a supposedly gifted dancer who really can dance beautifully.
Look out for these three. If there’s any justice they’ll all be huge stars – maybe as celebrated as the Victoria Woods and Eileen Atkinses of our time? It’s just a shame that this, going on until 10pm, was perhaps missed by the little girls who would have loved it the most.Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip