The Crimson Petal and the White


I love Michel Faber’s writing and it’s  a toss up between this and Under The Skin for his greatest work.  The two could be no more different; Under the Skin is a taught contemporary sci fi horror set in Scotland and this; an 800 page monstrous take on Dickensian Victorian London.

Both are really great books and consequently both run the risk of taking a good pasting when put on screen.

There has been many year’s of talk that TCPATW would be Hollywood-made and for a while rumour had it that Kirsten Dunst was to be the heroine, Sugar.  However it fell eventually to the BBC to make this near epic adaptation.  I say near epic because big and bold as it was I think it had even greater potential.

The previews did not make great reading; the panel on Newsnight Review, with the honourable exception of Maureen Lipman, annihilated it, so I approached fearing the worst.

I needn’t have worried.

The, at times, over tricksy focus pulling in the camera work was a bit heavy handed but this was overcome on balance because otherwise it was excellent (moody, creepy, almost surreal in places and beautifully emphasised by a particularly odd (in a good way) score written by newcomer Cristobal Tapai de Veer).

The set and costumes are astounding and the acting of the entire cast, but Particularly Chris O’Dowd (the IT team) and Romola Garai were of BAFTA winning standards, and had to be to pull it off.

In particular O’Dowd’s tortured portrayal of sappy rich boy William Rackham is magnificent.  It’s as if he can’t decide how to play the role, but that’s just how Faber wrote it.  In the end he comes across as merely a weak sap who is  only in it for himself.  Perhaps he cannot help it as we frequently see when he is led astray by his particularly vulgar “friends”.

Romola Garai, by contrast, is nailed to the tracks in the conviction of her character, as the upwardly mobile Sugar; pulling herself out of the stench thanks to the interest of Rackham who gradually exalts her social profile in a London where status was everything (and boy did she have status in the underworld, starting off as the top prostitute in London).  Her gritty but sometimes tender performance is the beating heart of the book and this ultimately excellent adaptation.

It’s still on iplayer but I’d wait for the DVD and splash out.

For me it would play out better as an epic four hour movie rather than a four part TV series.

Wonderful.  Bring on the BAFTAs. (And the Emmys).

I am almost overcome with excitement!


easy sugar

Michel Faber is a stunning writer and his 2002 novel, The Crimson Petal and The White, of which I have a first edition, is to be revealed to a much wider audience than the book ever reached when it is serialised in the Autumn on BBC2.
It is astoundingly brilliant as a book and will make a perfect BBC drama.
Here is what the BBC website has to say about it.
The Crimson Petal & The White is a four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s international best-selling novel on BBC Two.


Adapted by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and directed by Marc Munden, this intimate psychological thriller lifts the lid on the darker side of Victorian London revealing a world seething with vitality, sexuality, ambition and emotion.


This provocative and riveting tale tells the story of Sugar (Romola Garai), an alluring, intelligent young prostitute who yearns for a better life away from the brothel she is attached to – run by the contemptible Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson).


Highly sought after and sexually adept, Sugar finds her only comfort in the secret novel she is writing in which a murderous prostitute takes revenge on her clients. However, things change for her when she meets wealthy businessman William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd).


Sugar is a thrilling antidote to William’s life, saddled with a pious brother, Henry Rackham (Mark Gatiss), and fragile wife, Agnes Rackham (Amanda Hale). Agnes regularly endures visits from the invasive physician Doctor Curlew (Richard E Grant), leaving her unable to perform her wifely duties.


William ensconces Sugar as his mistress and she soon grows accustomed to her new life. Yet, unbeknownst to William, Sugar begins to hatch a plan which sets a series of events in motion that will change their lives for ever.


The supporting cast also includes Shirley Henderson, Tom Georgeson, Liz White, Blake Ritson and Bertie Carvel.


This riveting account of life in the world of Victorian prostitution is packed with detail and texture. An intelligent tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true sexual politics of Victorian life – in a way never seen before on screen. In the words of the heroine Sugar: “If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully.”

Peter Bowker’s Occupation


review_1424862c

The BBC has pulled an ace from the pack with this brilliantly written, filmed and acted three-parter starring James Nesbitt (how good an actor is he becoming?) Warren Brown and Stephen Graham.  If you’ve not seen it watch again on the BBC iPlayer because it’s a class act.  Set in Basra (and back in rainy old Engerland) it charts the stories of three Yorkshire squaddies who each react very differently to their experiences in Iraq.

It’s heavily political, and critically so, not just of the “allies” but of the new regime that the US and UK groomed to create total havoc in Saddam Hussein’s wake.

“Do you still think it was the right thing to do?” asks Graham of Nesbitt.

“I don’t know.”  replies Nesbitt, the man who started out as loyal as they come.

Yes.  Me neither.

What a bloody mess.

Fiona’s Story


Gina McKee

Gina McKee

Give the BBC their due.  I know I’ve ranted a bit about their Olympic bias but they sure can do drama and despite mixed notices in front of tonight’s Fiona’s Story I thought it was outstanding.

Mind you, it had Gina McKee as the lead and she cannot put a foot wrong in my book.  An A-class actress indeed and she carried off a very difficult and sensitive role with great subtlety.

It was a complex emotional plot, based on McKee’s husband being nobbled (no pun intended) for downloading child porn and then gradually attempting to take the emotional high ground by assuming the position of victim as opposed to perpetrator.  McKee’s character, the wife, got landed with all the emotional shit and painted into the bad corner at every turn, despite being as sympathetic as one could possibly tolerate.

A very fine performance (BAFTA anyone?) in a very fine production.