“All Creatures Great and Small” on PBS: That Mrs. Hall/Edward Episode

Anna Madeley details the patience, precision and empathy that went into putting together a fateful encounter that unfolded over several years.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “All Creatures Great and Small” Season 3, Episode 5, “Edward.”]

For nearly three seasons, Mrs. Hall was the emotional foundation of All Creatures Great and Small. Anna Madeley has played her as a shoulder to cry on, the wind in the sails of her trusted friends, and a compassionate listener in good times and bad. In episode 5 of the show’s third season, available now on PBS, “All Creatures Great and Small” gave Mrs. Hall her own moment in the spotlight.

In Edward, Mrs. Hall finally gets a chance to meet her estranged son. As a young man, Edward (Conor Deane) is almost a different person from the little child she last saw. In the early days of World War II, when Edward faces an upcoming deployment, he takes the opportunity to meet his mother at a train station for a brief afternoon. If this meeting made it seem like two strangers were about to figure out how to have a real-time conversation, that’s because it was kind of happening in real life, too.

“Andy Hay kept us apart until we started filming, just for the lack of intimacy to make it feel like we had time apart. The director has never asked me that before. My instinct as an actor was to meet Conor for a beer, chat with him and get to know him a bit,” Madeley told IndieWire. “Mrs. Hall knows her little boy. But there’s the idea that he’s grown up and she doesn’t know how he’s really fared over the last few years. So that sense of distance was really useful. Conor is really nice and easy to get to know, so that gave us an extra barrier and that little tension while we worked.”

When Mrs. Hall and Edward finally meet face to face, it is in a busy corridor near the train station platform. Compared to the quiet, country pace of Darrowby and a Skeldale house that doesn’t house many people, it’s one of those rare All Creatures Great and Small sequences to have a large crowd. This foot traffic around the main action was another real life case that added to the emotion of the scene.

“It’s a world where many people say goodbye. This uncertainty about what would happen, how often they would meet and if they would see each other again was all around us. We had to find our space to have our conversation,” Madeley said. “I think it was pretty useful to have that buzz around the characters. It got her through that awkward first moment. They don’t talk about the usefulness of a cup of tea and a biscuit and “Where shall we sit?” and all the things that get you through the first meeting. It was pretty organic in a way. It felt very natural, that’s how the meeting developed.”

Despite all the activity in this busy tunnel, “Edward” is a showcase episode for Mrs. Hall because it also gives Madeley the freedom to say so much without speaking. You can almost learn more about her nervousness and reaction to uncertainty by watching her try to pass the time before Edward arrives. There is a mixture of anticipation and sadness in all of these lonely moments, especially as the benches in the waiting area go from full to empty, except for her.

“We went through each phase and when their patience is running out. When does she look at the clock? When does she decide to have a cup of tea? We marked all these things. So in a way, the psychology was clear to us as we went through it,” Madeley said. “Sometimes you can rely heavily on text to give you your anchor points. Even in the scenes with Edward, where there’s a lot of text, there’s a lot of unspoken things going on as well. How they sit and where the bag falls and the tins of shortcrust pastry are all part of that storytelling.”

Aside from the sequences of Mrs. Hall waiting to meet Edward, there is a general reluctance in this episode that continues when the two finally face each other. There is a shared, painful history between the two, especially when it comes to the actions of Edward’s father, a man who has now practically disappeared from her life. It’s not specifically mentioned in the episode, but Madeley said that episode writer Karim Khan was able to convey a lot with the minimal details that Mrs. Hall and Edward allow themselves.

MASTERPIECE "All creatures great and small" Season 3 Sundays January 8th – February 19th 2023 Episode One –

“All Creatures Great and Small”

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“Karim really got her voice and brought detail to this character. When something is so well written, sometimes you don’t need to talk about it because the author did. Instinctively it stands out from the page and you can just do it. It doesn’t always make sense to talk everything through,” Madeley said. “It leaves the audience with their imagination. You have what you need to know. I thought it was really, really smart that he didn’t spell you out or detail anything. You understand what she has to say to Edward and that she didn’t necessarily get it right, but she tried.”

“People who know something very painful often talk around it rather than about it,” said series creator and showrunner Ben Vanstone. “And while we know what our facts are about it, we trust people that they can understand subtext and imagine what happened and don’t necessarily need it explained to them. We have the details on this, and they may not be what everyone thinks fully. But that doesn’t matter. I think it’s the emotion of the moment that matters the most.”

The disorder of their time together extends to Edward’s awkward exit. Conversations on the sidewalks lead to a devastating spin on the platform to say goodbye. Handing over the cookie jar (or failing to do so) was just one of the logistical challenges of filming Edward’s farewell, especially since half the station itself was still in regular use.

“The train station is fantastic. It’s pretty funny: on one side are the old steam trains. And then immediately on the next platform all modern passengers get on and off, commute. So it was quite an odd mix that day,” Madeley said. “It was a huge steam train that could not be stopped quickly. Dropping the shortbread at the right time, fearing for those things, you can let that flow into what you do. That time limit gave you that urgency. Andy is really trying to fix as much as possible and it was great that he was able to do that. The end scenes with the train, if we had to do that first it would have been really hard.”

Thematically, this desire to want a different outcome and to keep hope alive is something that runs throughout Season 3 of All Creatures Great and Small. As much as the war gives the characters and the show a reason for Mrs Hall and Edward to finally reunite, there’s also the back and forth from so many other people in Darrowby wondering out loud if somehow it could be averted. As the season enters its home stretch, this tension between an inevitable story and those who find their place within it sets the stage for where things might end.

“You’re always trying to find the fun in the show and the love and the joy, but the events certainly underscore everything in a way that’s inevitably melancholy. For an audience, we know where it’s going to end. So we’re always trying to make our characters kind of hopeful because they don’t know how it’s going to end,” Vanstone said. “It ensures that your characters aren’t ahead of the story. In a way, that makes it even more tragic. As a viewer, you see them talking about it: “Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe we’ll be fine, we can just stay here.” But we all know the dramatic irony of the fact that it’s coming for her. There is no escape.”

All Creatures Great and Small airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on most PBS stations. The series is also available to stream on the PBS app and the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video channel.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2023/02/all-creatures-great-and-small-pbs-mrs-hall-edward-episode-1234805243/ “All Creatures Great and Small” on PBS: That Mrs. Hall/Edward Episode

Lindsay Lowe

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