Above: Sketch of actor Michael Kitchen as "Foyle" in a 8.5 x 11.5 inch Japanese Lined Journal. Pentel Brush Pen (ColorBrush) with Pigmented ink, shaded with a Colorbrush with dye-based, fugitive ink and a Niji Waterbrush. Color is all from Montana Markers (15mm tips). Click on the image to view an enlargement.
When I’m stressed and want to relax I don’t listen to classical music, or Gregorian Chants, or even my Carlos Nakai Native American flute DVDs. Those are all wonderful and helpful in some ways, but now with so many issues floating around in my head (from what e-commerce solution I should go with for my online classes to how to make sure I get in the necessary doctor visits for my elderly in-laws) I need something more soothing and more engaging than those options.
I need to watch an episode of “Foyle’s War.”
Who’s Foyle and what war is he fighting?
Foyle is widowed Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle of Hastings, Sussex England, during and just following WWII. (Some of the episodes contain a subplot about his relationship to his son who is a fighter pilot in the RAF.) The war Foyle is fighting is the war at home in England: the crimes (murder, black marketeering, bigotry, espionage, etc.) that occur on the home front during wartime.
Foyle is played by the fabulous Michael Kitchen and it is from his portrayal of Foyle that the calmness I experience is derived. Since 2002 I’ve watched as Foyle out thought masterminds and bunglers, and aged gracefully, always with quiet demeanor, never in anyone’s face. He is the poster boy for modesty and courtesy even when facing despicable people. He uses his wits to prevail. He has a dry wit and is never mean spirited. He champions the frail and the outsider. He stands up to those in power who misuse their power. He lives simply and frugally and enjoys spending his spare time fly fishing.
He is the epitome of remaining calm and carrying on—in his case carrying on in his pursuit of justice despite how messy and murky the war has made the world.
Kitchen often plays “calm” characters, characters who listen and understand more than they might discuss. You can see this in his portrayal of Berkeley in “Out of Africa” and in the character George Briggs he plays in “Enchanted April.” As an actor Kitchen is able to project a sound groundedness that is so essential in the character of Foyle. His portrayal of Foyle is as much about the stillness of being in the moment as it is about action. He plays the stillness as action, and I have never seen it done better.
The way Kitchen plays Foyle from the show’s early episodes in 2002 where his face was more angelic, to the final episodes released in January where that face has aged gracefully into a full measure of compassion, it is impossible for me to not feel less stressful when I watch.
Things do not always turn out the way they “should.” Justice and what we want and think are right are sometimes mutually exclusive. But Foyle’s demeanor reminds us that with the world in chaos around us we can be decent, kind, loyal, and demanding all at the same time. I feel calmer just seeing that model of behavior.
I think I’ll go watch the final episode right now! (And then start rewatching from the first episode. I have to also point out that there is an excellent supporting cast of characters.)
I recommend that you watch this series. You’ll find the complete series on Acorn right now (both streaming or to purchase as a DVD set). Often it is replayed on PBS stations. It also seems to be available on Hulu right now.