Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell stars Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan have said their new show may be about magic, but it has plenty of relevance to real life.

The actors play the title roles in the BBC adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel about magicians, but claimed that the tale wasn’t as far fetched as it might first appear.

Bertie, who plays Jonathan Strange, explained: “It’s about magic, and magicians. It’s a fantasy, but really it’s about people, and they’re very sharply drawn people. It’s a grown-up drama.

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellBertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange (BBC)

 

“What’s amazing about this novel, and about this show, is that it’s properly thought through and the characters have real arcs, they’re real people.

“It’s a fully imagined world in which magic exists, but it’s one that still recognisable human beings inhabit; men who have a talent for magic.”

He went on: “One believes in their motivations, and that’s really what the drama’s about. Some extraordinary things happen, but the way that people deal with those extraordinary situations is something that you can really believe in.”

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellEddie Marsan as Mr Norrell (BBC)

Eddie, who plays Mr Norrell, added: “What’s most interesting about the magic is talking with Susanna, the author, about what the magic signifies. The story’s basically about letting the genie out of the bottle and trying to get it back in, and the ramifications of that.

“We talked about many things like that. It could be nuclear power or the subconscious – loads of different things. And it’s the beginning of the 19th century.”

Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell begins tonight (17 May) on BBC1 at 9.00pm.