Roald & Beatrix: The Tail Of The Curious Mouse
- Brian Donaldson
- 24 December 2020
Charming tale of that time when two legendary writers met at very different stages of their lives
They say that there's no such thing as bad publicity, but those behind this tale of young Roald Dahl meeting an ageing Beatrix Potter may have taken a sharp breath when the former's notorious anti-Semitism was back in the news. In early December, his family released a statement apologising for his well-publicised, antagonistic views towards Jewish people, words that have haunted fans who loved the stories but could no longer feel the same way about the man.
It might be easy to put all that awfulness to the back of your mind when watching Roald & Beatrix given that the Dahl here is a small, innocent boy (played by newcomer Harry Tayler) in mourning after the death of his father and sister. As if that wasn't enough, his mother Sofie (Jessica Hynes) is sending him to boarding school for his own character-building good. But after running away to protest this decision, she promises to try and track down his hero, the author of the Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck books.
Meanwhile, Potter (Dawn French) doesn't have her own problems to seek, with a fabulous career heading into its final straight, her eyesight failing and publishers sending a spy (Nina Sosanya) to check that she is able to meet her deadlines and to pass on some unwelcome suggestions. As Potter, French is her usual ebullient and sardonic self, painting the author as a slightly crabby individual who has little time for strangers, darting around with a large blade looking to murder a goose for Christmas dinner.
Eventually, the two legendary writers meet, separated in age by half a century, with the young Roald picking up tips and clues for the popular stories he will churn out in later years: he meets a fantastic talking fox fur, while Bill Bailey plays a big friendly guy at the train station. The whole production couldn't look and feel more festive, with snow covering Potter's property in the Lake District, and a warm fire awaiting those who are lucky enough to gain entry into her house. This charming story has enough bite to keep several generations of readers watching, intrigued by an unlikely encounter that could have made its way onto Sky's Urban Myths.
Sky One, Thursday 24 December, 8pm.