A Place to call Home

Marta Dusseldorp is pitted against Noni Hazlehurst in Seven's classy new melodrama.

2013-04-14_2341Seven has done it again.

The drama team of Bevan Lee, John Holmes and Julia McGauran has stumped up with one of the network’s finest local drama offerings in years in A Place to call Home.

Handsome, romantic, nostalgic…. it’s all here in a return to melodrama set in post-world war Australia in 1953.

That said, it isn’t hard to see that A Place to call Home has heavy influences from Downtown Abbey and even Revenge. There’s even a mansion in Ash Park in the rural town of Inverness.

Head of this clan is matriarch Elizabeth Bligh (Noni Hazlehurst), a rigid and traditional pastoralist’s wife who is fiercely protective of family and social appearances. She sets the bar high for her family and goes to great lengths to protect its reputation.

Brett Climo plays her son George Bligh, a well-meaning head of the family business and father to son James (David Berry) and daughter Anna (Abby Earl). James is heir to the family name but harbors personal demons, and is married to Olivia (Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood). Anna (yes they’ve really named her Anna Bligh) leads a life of privilege with looks to boot. She is heavily distracted by the dashing farmhand Gino (Aldo Poletti) who works for the Bligh family.

Into this world enters nurse Sarah Adams (Marta Dusseldorp), returning home after 20 years abroad. She’s intensely private, with her own dark secrets, but Sarah is an independent woman in an era when women were largely subservient to men. Circumstance pits her against Elizabeth Bligh in a clever tug of war that will make the most of the acting chops of its two female leads.

The first episode hints at all manner of mysterious pasts without ever revealing its full hand. It explores class lines and a traditional Australia yearning to break free from the mother land. There are backdrops of rural Australia that make this easily escapist, and the colours have been poured into the costumes like a Kodak picture.

Hazlehurst has all the fun in a role that gives her license to dominate. Dusseldorp, who has been largely familiar to audiences through ABC drama, becomes a perfect vehicle for the audience into this world. Her performance shines with integrity.

Lesser-known actors in the role of the Bligh children may well become new audience favourites in the way that the Rafters children have.

There are also roles by Frankie J. Holden, Craig Hall, Judi Farr and Kris McQuade.

Bevan Lee’s (Packed to the Rafters, Winners and Losers) script with writer Trent Atkinson (Home and Away) makes no apology for its use of melodrama, and the production directed by Roger Hodgeman echoes some of the wonderful period miniseries Australia used to make so well in the 1970s.

A Place to Call Home will have enormous appeal to female viewers as it unravels the secrets it has set up in its first hour and they become invested in the romance of its central characters -hopefully it won’t veer into too much Mills and Boon territory. I look forward to it challenging a White Australia policy to help give it a contemporary edge.

Australian drama is rightly enjoying a resurgence, especially with some of the ABC’s recent output. But for Seven to create and produce this winning series from within its own walls, shows that it remains a force to be reckoned with.

A class act.

A Place to Call Home starts soon on Seven.

22 Responses

  1. I must have enjoyed it, because when it ended I was very surprised that an hour has passed. Marta and Noni were great, hopefully we’ll get to see more of Marta’s mother and aunt, in later episodes. Just the sweeping shot of the mansion bugs me, as it dosn’t feel period, I don’t know if its the roof that seems modern, but other that a nice early 1950s feel about it.

  2. I actually quite enjoyed this.

    Marta and Noni played off each other brilliantly, and while there was some uneven acting among the younger cast members, there’s more than enough intrigue to bring me back for episode two.

    As for the mystery elements… well, I’m guessing that Sarah may have been imprisoned during the War (possibly even held in a Concentration Camp), and James is a closet homosexual.

    The Twitter consensus seems to be that it’s inferior to Downton Abbey, but with Seven aiming for over-35 females, I can’t imagine that Twitter users are really their target demographic.

    Needless to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if it pulled 1.5-2.0mil in the ratings.

  3. Another female orientated drama on Seven…Surprise surprise…TV in this country has become so female specific…Thank God for House Husbands on Nine & the ABC for daring to have male characters in the leading role.
    I don’t watch Revenge or Downton Abbey so this is not of interest to me…

  4. Since the first promo of this i have been really looking forward to this one. The thing that grabs me most is there are a lot of fresh faces in this drama, along with great veterans in Noni and Marta, a bit like when Rafters began. I hope it does well for Seven. Yes there is comparisons to Downton Abbey but you have to remember Downton was set in a different era. This is set years later than that and is Australian afterall. Can’t wait to see it.

  5. Yeah I liked her in Crownies too. I’m looking forward to this, the ads look good. I liked Wild Boys and was disappointed it didn’t get a 2nd season. Even the stars were surprised. I read an interview where they seemed pretty confident it was going ahead, but then the next day read that it had been axed.

  6. I can’t put my finger on it, but from the adds I’m not convinced it’s as accurate a period drama as Doctor Blake and Miss Fisher have been, but I will be giving it a go.

  7. I will give it a go. Happy that Marta Dusseldorp is in it because not only is she beautiful but can act i thought she was excellent in the ABC legal dramady, the name escapes me. With Noni Hazelhurst in it aswell will be agood show hopefully thestorylines and the dialogue is as good as the two ladies i have mentioned, if it is then it will succeed.

  8. Why should a historical family melodrama be a political polemic against The White Australia policy?

    What part did Inverell, an old, small rural seat that had 5,000 and voted for the National Party, play in the relaxation of restrictions on Asian immigration that happened later in the decade?

    By 1953 Australia was already in the middle of the post-war migration boom and encouraging migration from the Balkans, Italy and Greece. Though as far as I am aware not in Inverell.

    Making every single show on TV appeal to Greens voters is a trap that the ABC and BBC fall for. It probably isn’t one that the makers of MKR are going to fall for.

  9. Thanks for your review David.

    I personally can’t wait to see it myself. It’s so refreshing to see local content, notably Australian drama becoming even more popular. Investments in local drama should receive healthy dividends, not the reality genre.

    Congratulations Seven on using your own commodities and not relying on production companies to do the hard work for you.

  10. Cant wait for this as it was filmed in the area where I live and is very pretty country, also lots of new young faces and the story lines look good, hope it is a huge success and keeps Australian drama in the fore ground.

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