Ray Davies of The Kinks once sang about being a member of the village green preservation society but as Australians the concept of the “village” is a rather foreign one. Thankfully, we have someone like actress, Dame Penelope Keith of To The Manor Born fame to navigate our way through this quintessentially British phenomenon. Her gentle travelogue TV series, Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages is a quaint and breezy look at English culture and tradition.
Keith is a villager herself, having lived in Milford, Surrey for almost 40 years. For her TV show however, she takes her guidance from a 1932 book called the Batsford Guide. It was a series of books that chronicled many different aspects of village life. It also featured some beautiful illustrations by Sir Brian Batsford. In this three-part TV series Keith offers us some stunning visuals of her own (read: verdant landscapes, grand gardens and buildings, thatched cottages, etc.)
Dame Penelope is a very natural and charming presenter. It is obvious that she is very enthusiastic about the subject matter as her style is very positive, luminescent and self-deprecating. She also manages to find the right balance between being informative and interesting. In Norfolk she tries her hand at the local dialect and giggles at place names like: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and Little Snoring. She also watches clog dancing, bell-ringing and a synchronised dance routine involving wheelbarrows. She visits fetes and shops and travels via small plane, goes fishing at sea and even develops a need for speed around a racing circuit.
This light-hearted series is certainly not essential viewing but it is a pleasant and nostalgic ride through village life as it celebrates progress, tradition and other quirks and foibles that make life so much fun. Keith is a very charismatic presenter and she manages to strike a chord with the audience as well as the villagers (even the more eccentric ones). This quaint program is a very pleasant one that will challenge our thinking of the sleepy world of villages- make us jealous and perhaps even want to live there.
Originally published on 4 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/penelope-keiths-hidden-villages-dvd-review/
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