Love blossoms on the Hebrew ward

Aiden McArdle (centre) plays a Jewish radical in need of nursing care

Aiden McArdle (centre) plays a Jewish radical in need of nursing care

This week’s episode of Casualty 1909 — the BBC’s medical drama set in The London Hospital 100 years ago — focuses on the Jewish patients.

Recently arrived Eastern European immigrants and more assimilated Cockney Jews muck in together in the hospital’s male “Hebrew ward”, where, separated from other patients (at their request), they can talk Yiddish, eat kosher and pray together.

They are painted as a tight-knit East End group who look out for each other. And even if they communicate by shrugging and “oy vey-ing”, here it less a cliché and more a believably authentic depiction of Jews of the period.

Into the mix is thrust the charismatic but dangerously ill Saul Landau (Aiden McArdle) — a radical who has rejected Judaism in favour of “universal justice”. The other patients, all observant Jews, are not pleased to see him. But while they mutter and kvetch, Nurse Goodley (Lydia Leonard) takes more than a professional interest in him.

The heady mix of politics and romance is quite stirring even though nothing physical actually happens between the pair. This is Edwardian society after all and both characters having a strong moral compass. But that only makes the lingering glances and pregnant pauses between them even more highly charged.

By the end, Nurse Goodley discovers enough about the man and the religion that he has denounced to make their ill-fated love really rather moving.

BBC1 Sunday at 9pm

    Last updated: 1:35pm, June 25 2009