The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale


Anyone who’s read Diane Setterfield’s subtle, unsettling gothic story of loss, grief, destructive jealousy and the peculiar dynamic of twins probably thinks it’s unfilmable. But writer Christopher Hampton’s clever, eerie screenplay and two mesmerising performances, from Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman, make this a tour de force.

The Thirteenth Tale won’t be to everyone’s taste – there’s a slow build-up and it’s a tense, unhappy story – but it is sinuous and will wrap you in a prickly embrace as ghostly laughter rings through a huge, unhappy home. Colman is Margaret, a writer summoned by the imperious, dying author Vida Winter (Redgrave) to pen her biography. But there’s a terrible urgency about Vida’s need to tell her story, and she unearths childhood ghosts and horrors in front of an increasingly appalled Margaret. It’s the kind of television drama that will hang around you like a cloak, long after it ends.


Biographer Margaret Lea (Olivia Colman) is summoned to the home of reclusive and terminally ill novelist Vida Winter (Vanessa Redgrave) to document the author's life. Vida reveals the secrets of her dark and unsettling childhood at ancestral home Angelfield, forcing Margaret to face up to the tragedy she herself suffered as a young girl. Psychological mystery adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton from the novel by Diane Setterfield, with Robert Pugh, Tom Goodman-Hill, Steven Mackintosh and Alexandra Roach.

Cast & Crew

Vida Winter Vanessa Redgrave
Margaret Lea Olivia Colman
Hester Barrow Alexandra Roach
John the Dig Robert Pugh
Dr Clifton Steven Mackintosh
Dr Mawsley Tom Goodman-Hill
Young Adeline/Vida Sophie Turner
Young Emmeline Antonia Clarke
Charlie Angelfield Michael Jibson
Isabelle March Emily Beecham
The Missus Janet Amsden
Ambrose Proctor Adam Long
Emmeline/Adeline age 9 Madeleine Power
Theodora Mawsley Lizzie Hopley
Judith Jacqueline Davis
Mr Peter Lomax Martin Wimbush
Aurelius Love Gordon Winter
Young Margaret Isabel Barlow
Moira Alice Barlow
Director James Kent
Producer David Heyman
Producer Norma Heyman
Writer Christopher Hampton
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