Tag Archives: Keeley Hawes

The Durrells: Corfu curiosities

by Maggie Gordon-Walker

imageI was in two minds as to whether to watch ‘The Durrells’. I read ‘My Family and Other Animals’ for the first time when I was about eleven and regard it as an exceptional work, parts of it still reduce me to helpless laughter. Like meeting your heroes, a misjudged adaptation can sour the original, especially if it’s on ITV, which recently gave us the mangled Dr Thorne.

Happily I can report this is not the case. I’ve not seen any of the other versions of it, but so far, this manages to capture both the spirit of the novel and the eccentricity of the family versus that of the islanders rather well. It follows the fortunes of the widowed Mrs Durrell and her four children as they flee a damp and depressing England to start a new life in Corfu in the 1930s. Larry, Leslie and Margo are young adults, Gerry, the narrator and author of the book, is the youngest and strikes terror into the hearts of his family by his fondness for bringing any number of living creatures  (rampant gulls, scorpions and tortoises) into the house as pets to be admired.  Continue reading

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The Spies Who Went Into The Cold – No More Spooks

As reported by various news sources today, the tenth series of Spooks to be shown this Autumn will be the last.

Because Jo The Hat would kill me if I didn't use a picture of Richard Armitage

The decision was rather unusually taken by the programme makers Kudos rather than by the BBC, on the grounds that they wanted to stop the show whilst it was still “in its prime”. Anybody who watched the most recent season may choose to strongly disagree with this statement, but still.

Despite its dip in form of late, Spooks can easily claim to be one of the most consistently brilliant dramas of the past ten years. This was due to a number of factors. Firstly, its excellent writing. Secondly, its often shocking plots. It speaks volumes that Spooks became something of a victim of its own success in this sense – you ended up expecting the unexpected, which when it happened became, er, totally expected. But the impact of killing one of its major characters in only  the first series without any warning is more than most serial dramas ever manage. Although I doubt deep-fat fryer manufacturers were quite so welcoming of this turn of events.  Continue reading

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Lustbox: Keeley Hawes

Ah, Christmas. Despite my very best attempts to be a Good (Velocity) Girl this year, in return Santa’s Sack contained a broken speedometer and a chest infection. Thanks for that, Father Christmas – you really shouldn’t have! No, really. You shouldn’t have.

However, our old pal FC did at least partly redeem himself on Boxing Day, by providing your intrepid correspondent with the opportunity to drool ov- I mean ardently admire the acting performance of Keeley Hawes in the BBC remake of Upstairs Downstairs.

Upstairs? Downstairs? Anywhere you like, really...

Hawes has pretty much cornered the market in Dramas of all Periods – Our Mutual Friend, Wives and Daughters, Tipping The Velvet, Marple, Ashes to Ashes etc. Plus she’s done Shakespeare (she was a truly moving miscarrying Lady Macbeth in the ShakespeaRe-Told series on the Beeb a while back and was also very good indeed in the not-dreadfully-sympathetic role of Desdemona in ITV’s Othello) and Chaucer (again in the Beeb’s modern adaptations). And she also played probably the most sympathetic female role to date in Spooks (yes I know Ros was fab but she was also terrifying), bringing a touching vulnerability as an agent ultimately done in by having to continually choose Duty over Love. And whilst her struggle with the badly-underwritten role of Alex in Ashes to Ashes was all too plain to see in its first series, the way in which she went on to make the part into something that managed to be both strong and moving was impressive.

Having been at times written off as yet another Kate Winslet/Emma Thompson/Emilia Fox/Emily Mortimer/Keira Knightley etc English Rose, the fact that Hawes is almost continually in high-quality work such as Upstairs Downstairs surely speaks for itself. She’s not adverse to sending herself up either, as her turn in That Mitchell And Webb Look proved. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s even the face of Boots No. 7 make-up and the voice of Lara Croft. Carlsberg don’t make women, but if they did….

Posted by Velocity Girl

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Ashes to Ashes (3.5): Giving me the SHIVERS

Raaah… we’re back firing on all four cylinders this week. There was nothing average about last night’s episode – from Alex’s dream about the lovely Sam Tyler, to the improved quality of Gene’s one-liners (“Not going to shoot him Bols? Then let’s go and run him over…”), the look of terror on Ray’s face, Chris body-popping – when they’re good, they’re very, very good.

Life on Mars fans will remember DCI “Bastard” Litton (and Press Gang fans will remember Lee Ross). It’s a delight to watch the tension between Litton and Hunt (Alison Graham describes it beautifully as ‘like watching two polyester-clad stags’ and I just can’t do any better.) as the former turns up on the trail of Manchester comedian Frank Hardwick, accused of stealing two grand from the Police Widows’ Fund.

You can almost smell the testosterone and cheap aftershave coming off the TV screen  – despite Litton’s nasty grey ‘Next for men loafers’.

Gene, of course, quickly discerns that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and determines to ruin Litton’s day by catching Hardwick (the great Roy Hudd) and arresting him on trumped up charges for selling hardcore porn. Alex, disapproving turns up to arrest Hardwick for the theft instead and gets to meet Ben Elton. (Incidentally, I’d love to know exactly which facet of Elton’s personality or career pissed off the writer so much that not only did he get crunched by Gene, but fatally shot by our bad guy – my money’s on We Will Rock You.)

Kudos to the writers too, for demonstrating just how fine the line between Gene’s outrageous one-liners and Litton’s downright offensiveness is. How they have kept Gene from teetering over that line in all this time is frankly miraculous. I also liked the little line about troglodytes they gave to Shaz – “It means big, strong men from the north.”

More worrying is Keats’ offer to transfer Alex to Fenchurch East and Gene’s refusal to talk about what happened to Sam. I still have faith in the Gene Genie (I even have a theory for what’s going on now), but I worry that Alex will be lost by the end of episode eight if she doesn’t take the leap of faith that Gene describes to her.

Actually, I’m worried about them all now – the look of terror on Ray’s face at seeing the edge of the world reminded me of a great novel about near death experiences (Passage by Connie Willis – possibly the most frightening book I’ve ever read – highly recommended). And here’s my theory – they’re all dead already (or as near to dead as makes no difference in the case of Sam and Alex); Gene is the guardian angel of this world; and perhaps he despatched Sam because Sam was threatening the stability of the world. That they’re seeing stars could mean the world is coming apart again. Whatever the truth of this world is, I’m damn sure that is what Gene whispered in the ear of the bad man at the end of the episode.

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Ashes to Ashes (3.4): The early bird bags the bastard

It pains me to say that I found this episode of Ashes to Ashes distinctly average. Although average A2A is still a Himalayan mile better than a lot of TV drama.

The main focus was on the case of the week, and unfortunately I’d guessed that the undercover cop had gone to the dark side in the first fifteen minutes. The dark side being Terry Stafford (played by Peter Guiness, a man who is to crime drama casting supremos, what Terrence Hardiman is to children’s drama casting supremos looking for someone sinister).

Terry is nasty piece of work – just the kind of scum Gene thrives on bringing down – and he’s also a thorn in the side of DCI Wilson from a nieghbouring division.

Gene is less than chuffed to find Wilson running undercover cop Louise  Gardiner on his patch, and when Keats gives him the okay to start digging, Gene gets out his biggest shovel. (This scene really felt like Keats was the teacher asking Gene to show that he could play nicely with others.)

It’s not long before Gene blows Louise’s cover, pulls in Terry’s son Daniel (very much his father’s boy), and we all slowly crawl towards the inevitable shoot-out (with added prowling round a mannequin factory).

But as I said at the beginning, even average A2A  is worth watching. This week we discovered the truth behind the vandalism of the Blue Peter garden (remember that?). You’ve guessed it, it’s Gene ‘restraining’ a suspect.

Some of the best lines were almost thrown away. As Gene and Alex leave DCI Wilson’s office, we just catch the words, “Nice tits.” Alex asks if she really heard him say that, to which Gene replies, “The man’s a cripple – have a heart.” I enjoyed Gene’s “The early bird that bags the bastard” line too.

Jim (Keats) fixing it for Chris to keep his job (after Louise manipulated him into beating Daniel Stafford to a pulp in the cells) was nicely done too.

Personally, my favourite moment was Gene trying to rouse Alex from her chloroformed stupor. It’s a neat play on the viewer’s conflicted desire to see Gene and Alex kiss (and the knowledge that the whole thing will be ruined if they ever do). As he leans in to give her the kiss of life, having fiddled self-consciously with that skew-whiff tie of his, we cut to Alex’s vision of her self being buried alive, there’s a scream, and she comes back to consciousness with a jolt. Poor Gene.

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Ashes to Ashes (3.1): More questions than answers

So, we have eight weeks to finally unravel what’s been going on in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, and we got off to a cracking start last night. From Alex’s new introduction – “My name is Alex Drake and frankly your guess is as good as mine” to our first sighting of DCI Gene Hunt – the Audi Quattro roaring across the screen to the Ride of the Valkyries, Hunt in full-on sheriff mode (it seeems Alex may harbour fantasies of being rescued from various types of badness by the Gene Genie too) – it was good to be back in Gene’s world.

Alex appeared to have gone back to the future… but it was only a dream – one she was literally slapped out of by Gene Hunt, who needed her to clear his name with D and C (Discipline and Complaints) after he accidentally shot her at the end of Series 2. Question one, what’s the significance of the news report of a body dug up in the present day?

Talking of D and C, here enters DCI Jim Keats – is he also from the future? He says he wants to help Alex, but is telling the truth? Questions two and three.

There is also the Case of the Week to solve – a little girl called Dorothy Blond has been kidnapped. Ray Carling has been running the investigation while Gene has been hiding out abroad (“the Isle of Wight. But that was shit, so I tried the Costa Brava.”) but with little success. Lucky for Dotty, Alex (yes, in red shoes) and Gene return to squabble, pull faces and eventually save the day.

Frankly it’s amazing Alex gets anything done however, what with being haunted by a dead policeman who seems to be missing half his face (Q4), stumbling on a file about Sam Tyler (Q5), and being subjected to her worst hairstyle yet.

But this isn’t really Alex’s show – I’m not sure I care whether she gets back to Molly anymore – the beating heart of the show is Gene. It may be the braggadocio and one-liners that go down in history, but it’s the vulnerability that we’re occasionally allowed to glimpse that stops him being a cartoon caricature.

The final shot of him through a rain-soaked window, whisky glass in hand, after Keats has vowed to expose his secrets and destroy his reputation, certainly pulled at my heart-strings, even as I did my best to ignore the seeds of doubt the dastardly writers have planted. Damn you Graham and Pharoah!

Still, having slept on it, my faith in the Gene Genie remains. I can’t wait to see what he makes of speed-dating next week.

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