Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Victoria: Doll 123

"I know that I am young..."

So begins ITV's big prime time eight part biopic of Queen Victoria, and it's gorgeously shot, designed and costumed, surely deliberately, to look like a contemporary painting from the 1830s. It certainly looks gorgeous and evokes the period well. I'm impressed, too, with the casting, performances and script. The juxtaposition of Victoria's coronation with Lady Flora's humiliating examination is a particular high point. But it all hangs on the performance of Jenna Coleman is a very different part to that of Clara in Doctor Who.

This is not the Victoria of the popular imagination but a young, guileless, well-meaning but perhaps naive young girl of 18, still under the thumb of her mother and self-serving stepfather, and Coleman evokes the innocence and the steel, striking the right balance between regal and naive. Rufus Sewell, too, impresses as the initially jaded Lord Melbourne in spite of being somewhat young for the part at first glance.

I also like the way events downstairs are used as a metaphor for what is happening; initially there are all sorts of "perks" and corrupt practices which are stopped, but Victoria eventually holds back from going too far. And it's nice, as a Doctor Who fan, to see Eve Myles and Tommy Knight; there's even a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance from Tom Price.

The history is, give or take a bit of artistic licence, accurate, strongly evoking an age which was no longer of the regency but not yet "Victorian", with a political undercurrent to everything, Victoria being opposed by the Tory supporters of her Uncle Ernest and supported by the Whig prime minister. It'll be interesting to see if this is followed through.

The ending is superb, as Lord Melbourne gives courage D to a Victoria chastened by her wronging of Lady Flora, saying that she has given him a reason to live after the death of his young son, and she is able to carry on and do her duty in that very strange job of constitutional monarch. This is a good and promising start.

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