Monday, 28 March 2016
Maigret Sets a Trap - ITV review
Maigret Sets a Trap, starring Rowan Atkinson as the legendary French cop, aired on ITV this evening. Many eyebrows were raised by the casting of Atkinson as Georges Simenon's Chief Inspector Maigret, but John Simenon expressed his delight with the performance when we discussed Golden Age fiction on stage at the Essex Book Festival a fortnight ago, and having seen the show, I can see why. Atkinson, I felt, did a pretty good job. There's more to him as an actor than Blackadder and Mr Bean.
I never saw the famous Maigret series starring Rupert Davies, for which I was too young, but I did enjoy one of John's anecdotes about it - apparently his father taught Rupert Davies how to use a pipe. Wisely, the pipe was retained for the new show: Maigret without his pipe would be rather like Morse without opera or Marple without her knitting - somehow incomplete. Maigret doesn't drive, and Atkinson - a car obsessive - wanted to change that, but wisely, the temptation was again resisted.
I did see the series in which Michael Gambon played Maigret,and I quite liked it, but felt that it lacked excitement. Some aspects of the Maigret stories are low-key (and when I first read them as a teenager, I was slightly underwhelmed, although with hindsight I feel that this was perhaps due to the nature of the translations) but a crime story that doesn't grip and, in some way, excite doesn't have much of a future. The Maigret books are short and snappy, and I worried that a two-hour version might drag.
Stewart Harcourt's script set out to solve that problem with sparse dialogue, and a concentration on mood rather than plot twists. Watching Maigret Sets a Trap was a very different experience from watching Morse, Lewis or Endeavour, but a capable supporting cast, including Fiona Shaw, Aidan McCardle, and Lucy Cohu - very good as Madame Maigret - helped to make it enjoyable viewing. (And did I spot John Simenon making a cameo appearance at the end of the story? I think so.)
Coincidentally, I embarked on a Simenon reading binge a little while ago, and the republication of his work by Penguin, with excellent fresh translations, has re-ignited my enthusiasm for this remarkable author. So has hearing John speak about his father, with insight and affection. I'm hoping to review a number of Simenon books in the coming months - not just Maigrets, but also some of his non-series work. In the meantime, I look forward to the next TV adaptation.