Angelic Alice Bowen drowned in 1968 after fleeing through the woods from an unseen menace. Her mother Ruth (Jodie Whittaker) can’t let her memory go and it seems the ghostly Alice can’t leave Marchlands, her family home, either.
Her spirit haunts the new families who settle in the grand Edwardian villa – down-to-earth Helen and Eddie Maynard (Alex Kingston and Dean Andrews) and their two children in 1987 and present-day yuppies Nisha and Mark (Shelley Conn and Elliot Cowan) who are expecting their first baby.
Last night’s opener of the five-part drama handled the 43-year storyline with simplicity and wove in countless coincidences and shocks to ramp up the creepiness factor.
Eight-year-old Amy Maynard seems to be a naughty girl who blames leaving the bath taps running on her imaginary friend. Except the imaginary friend is called Alice and her naughtiness also extends to drowning kittens.
Nisha is delighted to discover a beautiful mural dedicated to Alice while stripping wallpaper. But in shades of the Omen she falls off her ladder while trying to uncover more. Luckily her unborn baby is safe but her ankle is broken.
And the buttoned-up Bowens must have a whole wardrobe-full of skeletons as Ruth’s mother-in-law Evelyn (Tessa Peake-Jones) bullies her to forget Alice, her husband Paul (Jamie Thomas King) can’t bring himself to touch her and father-in-law Robert (Denis Lawson) acts as guilty as sin.
Marchlands is more evidence that ITV1 is sticking to its pledge to produce quality dramas after last year’s smash hit Downton Abbey and lavish Christmas production of Poirot On The Orient Express.
A slow burner that should keep you gripped until the fifth and final part. Just remember to turn off the taps.
Marchlands is on ITV1, Thursdays at 9pm.
by Gillian Crawley
[picture credits: ITV]