When I first heard that ITV was producing a new period drama based on Britain’s most famous naturalist, Gerald Durrell’s, novels I was rather sceptic. They had already been turned into two separate series, both called My Family and Other Animals after his first book from 1956 and both by the BBC. The first was in 1987 and starred the legendary Brian Blessed and the second, which I loved, was in 2005 and starred my beloved Matthew Goode and the incredibly talented Russell Tovey. However, when I started watching the new series, The Durrells, I was instantly entranced by it.
Gerald Durrel’s The Corfu Trilogy, consisting of My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods, were all based on his own family as they decamped to the glorious, sun-soaked island of Corfu during the 1930s. The mother of the family, Louisa Durrell, was an unconventional mother of the time and believed in life experience rather than regimented schooling. After years of financial hardship since her husband had died, she decided to pack up the home in Bournemouth and head to a much cheaper paradise island. However, their problems don’t stop there and they have to adapt to a life very different from what they’ve known.
Of course, I couldn’t let the first series of The Durrells finish without exploring the wonderful costumes by Charlotte Holdich on display in this fabulous new show. I mean, we all know how much I love 1930s fashions! And there are plenty to enjoy, mainly wore by the three female characters of the story.
Louisa Durrell, played by the fabulous Keeley Hawes, is the head of the family trying desperately to hold her family together. She has an array of separates, some lovely blouses, particularly one that has a double button placket, and a few simple skirts with the odd kick pleat in them. She also has a couple of pairs of trousers which is lovely to see in a 1930s based programme. These are all usually worn in and around the house but she also has some stunning dresses that are clearly for a more smart look.
The two above are my absolute favourites and I wish I could find full length shots of both. The first one in a peach, black, white and lavender Art Deco check print looks like an original 1930s dress. If it’s new it has definitely been copied from an original one as it’s so authentic. The spotty one has been playing on my mind since the moment I saw it. It looks like linen and has plain border sections that look like they’ve been stitched with matching blue lines of thread. I need to make one like this!
Florence Petrides, played by Lucy Black who was recently in ITV’s Jericho, is the only other British person on the island the family has come across. She is the wife of the local doctor and assists him in his practice. Louisa and Florence become friends after Louisa’s eldest son Larry falls ill and Margo Durrell tries her hands at becoming a part time assistant at the Doctor’s.
Florence is all about the separates. She has some really gorgeous blouses and I’ve featured my two favourites above. The sleeveless one I really need to make, it would be so lovely for the summer and so different from the usual boxy round neck sleeveless blouses with buttons down the back I already have. I love the bias binding around the wrap over neckline and it opens up so many options and versions I could make.
I also really, really love the skirt she wears with it in mustard yellow. It’s a really plain skirt apart from the four knife pleats down the centre front. I’ve recently been considering making a mustard coloured skirt and this would be so perfect.
Seventeen year old Margo (Margaret), played by Daisy Waterstone who starred in Testament of Youth a couple of years ago, is the only girl amongst the Durrell siblings and she’s so similar to teenagers of today. She loves nothing better than lying in the sun, flirting with boys and dreaming about clothes. And what a wardrobe she has. I’ve probably liked everything she’s worn so far and she has a lot of different pieces.
The blouse and skirt she wore at the doctor’s office were such a lovely combination and both pieces looked like original 1930s garments. The spotty skirt is an absolute dream. The green and white wiggly check print dress is definitely my second favourite dress of the show after Louisa’s polka dot one. Can you see those amazing checked pintucks underneath the neckline? The frills of the 1930s had never really appealed to me until I saw this and now I want frills on everything!
As a firm lover of the sun, Margo has some fabulous knitted swimming costumes so classic of this era. The first one we see is a knitted bikini, considered very risqué in those days, and she ruffles a few feathers with the locals.
Larry, Leslie and Gerry
Louisa’s three sons Larry (Lawrence), played by Josh O’Connor who appeared in Peaky Blinders and Ripper Street, Leslie, played by newcomer Callum Woodhouse, and Gerry (Gerald), played by Milo Parker, the little boy in Mr Holmes, pretty much live in the same clothes day in day out. Larry either opts for a classic Breton top, perfect for the hot weather, or just doesn’t bother getting dressed at all, but rather walks around in his underwear and dressing gown.
Whereas both Leslie, who loves nothing more than going hunting and generally firing his gun, and Gerry, whose fascination with the local wildlife no matter how weird and wonderful, creates a menagerie of new house guests, live in khaki shorts and white or blue shirts.
The Durrells has proven a surprise hit for ITV, having brought in a total of 8.2m viewers for the first episode, and has become the most watched ITV drama of 2016. As a result a second series has already been commissioned for next year, which I’m so excited about. It’s such a gorgeous, heart-warming series, just perfect for a Sunday evening (and is directly followed by the fabulous Indian Summers on Channel 4) and I, for one, don’t want it to end.
The first four episodes of the first series of The Durrells can be watched on ITV’s hub but you better be quick as episode one becomes unavailable on the 3rd of May. The last two episodes can be seen on the next two Sundays at 8pm on ITV.