Filed under: Antique, Authors, Bawdy Couture, Costume Dramas, Etsy, Fashion, Modern Victorian, Painted Ladies, Victorian, Victoriana, Vintage | Tags: Adaptation, BBC2, British, Drama, Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White, TV, UK
Last week I breathlessly began watching the BBC’s four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s epic novel, The Crimson Petal and the White.
I had been concerned that, for want of a better expression, they would bugger it up, and wrote in my last post about the unique type of fear that ripples through you when you discover they’re filming a book you’ve really enjoyed. I know not everyone feels the same, but I happen to think they’ve made a pretty good stab at adapting a novel which mainly consists of richly detailed descriptive passages of narrative – surely a difficult task by anyone’s standards.
(By the way, if you missed the first episode of The Crimson Petal and the White, catch-up by watching it here)
In the first episode we spend more time at Mrs Castaway’s house of ill repute, learning about the inhabitants and their various vices. We meet Sugar, just as the narrator introduces us to the cast of characters in the novel, and we know just as surely we’re in the wrong side of town.
In my previous post, I squealed about how gorgeous the pictures of the costumes and sets were; having watched the first two episodes, I’m here to tell you the pictures don’t do them justice. I could gaze for simply ages at the way the sets have been dressed, that overarching Gothic gloom that shrouds both the worlds of the velvet-clad upper classes and the ghastly wretches in tatters.
Even the filth and mire of the notorious St. Giles Rookery area of Victorian London is lovingly realised, with the raucous dens of iniquity thrown into sharp relief against the lusciously opulent interiors of the upper echelons of society.
In the second episode we see the two worlds colliding, the velvet besmirched as the rot sets in. It’s wonderfully vivid stuff and, despite critics’ fears (hopes?) that it would be wall-to-wall rumpy pumpy; it’s really not that filthy, considering the subject matter and how salaciously titillating it could well have been!
I think Romola Garai makes a wonderful Sugar – I especially liked the way she kept her facial expressions entirely free of emotion – except perhaps of sheer boredom – as she, um, welcomed her clients. So to speak. Until she knew they could see her face again, at which point it lit up like an overly decorated Christmas tree.
All of this is nectar to me, as you may imagine, and very inspiring. Even before the first episode, I began building a collection of seedy Victorian items for use in an Etsy Treasury. The layout of that treasury may be seen at the start of this post.
I hadn’t had time to finish that before posting previously, but it’s now been published (linked above), and I thought I’d share its contents with you here.
Pictures from my treasury are scattered throughout this post, or click the link to go to the full-sized treasury list, and browse from there if you prefer.
Anyway, yes. It’s right up my street (or St. Giles alleyway), really, this tickling of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London. A look right up the lacy petticoats at the seething moral dichotomy which Victorian society so loved to wrestle with. Wonderful stuff.
If you read my previous post on The Crimson Petal and the White adaptation, you will have seen that some people got all hot under the collar, they felt it was “gaudily over-painted” and full of “Victorian Gothic Melodrama” – as though they’re BAD things. Well, anyone who thinks that would put me off obviously hasn’t cast an eye over the rest of this blog, and we doubtless wouldn’t see eye-to-eye. The gaudier and more melodramatic the better, if you ask me!
I find it rather amusing that sniffy people peering over the tops of their glasses are declaring it rather declassé, and in doing so, have completely and utterly missed the point. The Victorian public adored high Gothic melodrama, and both the book and the television adaptation are tipping the wink to this era in the form of an affectionate pastiche. As for gaudy, well, the Victorians could hardly be called minimalist, and thank the Lord for that.
Indeed, you could say it’s the decadence and the “pantomime characters” that serve as an attraction for me, in this austere age of dowdy realism and dull, lifeless, clumsy ‘re-imaginings’ of novels. I dare say that if you loathed the novel, you wont enjoy the BBC adaptation – just as if you detest mandarins, you should probably steer clear of mandarin flavoured sorbet. My advice is: Go for the lemon, old bean! Don’t put yourself through hours of torture on anyone’s behalf. I loathe Hollyoaks. I watched it once and hated it, and decided never to watch it again as it wasn’t at all my thing, but I shouldn’t dream of saying it should be banned, or criticising others for liking it.
I am here to tell you that television producers very rarely have my taste in mind when they make programmes. They practically never consult me before spending millions on their latest project. But neither should they, because I do not consider my taste (or lack of) is more or less important than anyone else’s. If I dislike a programme I may give it another go, or I may choose to switch it off and never let it darken my life again.
One thing I will never do, is apologise for liking gaudy melodrama. Never. I’m really quite awfully proud of it, as you can possibly tell by the merest glance at the rest of my blog! I rather suspect that persons who are troubled by things being too over-the-top and showy will have found their entire (albeit fleeting) visit to my blog to have been jolly upsetting…
Nurse! The smelling salts!
I do hope you make a full recovery, dearhearts. Don’t forget to loosen a few stays, put your head between your knees and breathe deeply into a paper bag.
If all else fails, have some gin!
Until next time,poppets
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