The Beeb’s recent costume dramas – Cranford and Lark Rise To Candleford – have gently melded into one quietly glorious bosomy soap that appears to be set in some hazy non-specific Victorian period where smallpox, rickets and plaguey prostitution are virtually unheard of.
At least they don’t appear to have touched the lives of the cloth-capped and lace-collared villagers who play out their small, Hardy-esque existences in the wonderfully constructed BBC sets purely for our televisual entertainment... and never for our ill humour.
If the villagers had television sets I guarantee they’d all be tuned into Songs Of Praise.
And yet, for all there is a distinct lack of engorged bodices being pantingly ripped open Andrew Davies style, the writers have still managed to craft dramas that are both engaging and absorbing.
And feature Julia Sawalha.
As I’ve mentioned before, Julia – much favoured British actress of this ‘ere blog – seems to have cornered the market for chaste, wryly laced up dramas where the bodice’s are not so much ripped open as securely fastened for most of the time with the slightly pouty suggestion that they might be loosened a little bit later but only when the cameras are switched off or you’ve switched to another TV channel...
Cue raised eyebrow, a quirky smile and a slight flash of wrist and that’s about as risqué as Julia gets...
And I’m loving it.
In Lark Rise To Candleford the sexuality is repressed and understated. Its mouth has been washed out with lye soap and stuffed into clothes so starchy the collars could support the Severn Bridge without buckling. Looks and smiles are exchanged in substitution for bodily fluids. A blush and a stammer are acts of wanton desire and impropriety. The sex lies in what isn’t being said between the parties.
Not everybody’s cup of tea I grant you but much as I’d like to see Julia jiggling herself out of the enviable confines of her corset I also recognize that I’d be disappointed in her if she did. Does this make me a hypocrite of some kind? Am I impaled on the horn of a dilemma so old, boring and completely trad that feminists themselves no longer acknowledge it with anything more than a slight sigh and flinty eyes rolled skyward?
The old angel / whore dichotomy?
All I know is that Julia looks damned fine in a corset and damned fine out of one.
As dichotomies go, it’s one (two?) I can quite happily live with for a few Sunday’s more.
Lark rise indeed.