The Crimson Petal and the White on TV

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The Crimson Petal and the White on TV

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Feb 26, 2011, 6:48am

For those of us looking to the forthcoming TV adaptation, The Radio Times just published a single still from the prog (which I can't find anywhere to upload - sorry) that shows Gillian Anderson as a much-too-young Mrs Castaway. What worries me most, though, is their description of the story as a 'psychological thriller'. Would anyone who has actually read it describe it as that? It makes me a little worried about what they are planning for this beloved tome. Still no news as to when it is to be shown though it surely can't be long now? Does anyone have any idea how it could be described as a psychological thriller or have any suggestions as to what parts of the book are going to be emphasised or completely rewritten to make that fit?

Feb 26, 2011, 9:44am

Hadn't heard about this, but the BBC website has this insight to offer...

I think they describe most things as psychological thrillers, including the 6 o'clock news. It's all designed to get the viewing figures up.

Feb 26, 2011, 1:04pm

"Revealing the true underbelly of Victorian life in a way never before seen on screen..." - sounds as though they won't be able to show it before our bedtime, if they really mean to go one better than all those TUOVL Dickens and Sarah Waters adaptations of the last few years. Maybe we'll get full-frontal chamberpots?

Mar 9, 2011, 4:30am

Crimson Petal and the White is one of my favorite books and I agree with pokarekareana, about the ratings. But to answer your question, it is definitely not a psychological thriller. There is a lot of drama and intrigue , I cant in good conscience call it a psychological thriller.
While I am forced to admit the parts of the book that have sex in them are (I cant think of a good word here) so I'll just say they are a little much. . .but the point I always thought was how people used sex in different ways to achieve their goals and what unexpected consequences came of it.
I just hope they don't use the sex aspect to make the show something that the book just wasn't.

Mar 9, 2011, 5:56am

Well, I still haven't seen a screening date yet but the anticipation is building with new pics in the Radio Times every weeks now so I'm guessing this can only be 2 weeks away at the very most.

I'm afraid sex seems to be what sells these TV series' and, although I wasn't bothered by the sex in the book I'm pretty confident it will be made fairly explicit; that doesn't really worry me as long as it doesn't break the narrative thread, but I just hope they haven't changed the story itself too much. I'm still mulling over what they must have done to it to turn it into a 'psychological thriller' and I know I can't watch any adaptation of such a loved book without some disappointments but I do so hope it will still be recognisable as the work I love so much.

What with one of my favourite ever books being dramatised and a new Daphne du Maurier appearing I'm like a pig in muck so far this year.

Mar 28, 2011, 5:40pm

6th April on BBC2. I just saw an advert.

Mar 29, 2011, 4:35am

Brilliant pokarekareana (I'm still only seeing the undated 'teasers')! It's certainly being super-hyped and, I suspect, can only be a disappointment but I'm still doing my best to stay optimistic.

Mar 29, 2011, 2:30pm

Its just too bad it will take another year before it "might' come to bbc america . . if they even decide to air it here.

Mar 30, 2011, 4:56am

Part One has appeared in my EPG (and been tagged for recording). Seems to be 4x1hr, so they've obviously cut the story quite heavily somewhere.

Mar 30, 2011, 9:40pm

Keep us posted on how it is, I may just buy it if it's any good

Mar 31, 2011, 7:27am

#8 It stars Gillian Anderson as Mrs Castaway so I'd guess that is a deliberate carrot for an American audience as she's certainly not the most obvious person I can think of to play the character. I've cleared my schedule for next Wednesday, set the TV to record (just in case I get interrupted half way through, as almost always happens) and am almost ridiculously excited about the whole thing. Even more so when I find BBC4 is showing a new dramatisation of John Braine's wonderful Room at the Top in the same week. I think I've deserved this as there's been bugger all I've wanted to watch on TV for about 3 years now!

Mar 31, 2011, 7:43am

>11 Booksloth:
You mean you missed the endearingly low-budget dramatisation of Christopher and his kind last week? Very wise.

Mar 31, 2011, 7:57am

#12 I did record it actually but I wiped it last night (unwatched) to make sure there was plenty of room for TCPATW etc. You have just made me feel rather good about that.

Mar 31, 2011, 11:48pm

>11 Booksloth:
I don't know, Gillian Anderson does throw me off a bit. . . I haven't read the book in a couple years, but when I think about Mrs. Castaway the image that always comes to mind is the stepmother from Disney's Cinderella. .maybe that's just me though.

Abr 1, 2011, 6:53am

#14 I feel the same way: Mrs Castaway is an old bag. Okay - age-wise she's probably a lot younger than I am but given the life she has led and the times in which the book is set, I see her looking a lot ropier than the pics I've seen of GA in costume and make-up. One of the wonderful things about the book is the way in which Faber lets us see his characters with 'warts and all' (or, on Sugar's case, psoriasis and all) - to me, that makes them much more endearing and realistic. One part of the book that chokes me is the market there was for ill, frequently dying, women, as well as the fit and attractive. In fact, it would have been a rare prostitute indeed who managed to hang on to her looks for long amidst all the disease etc. I don't really see any TV series showing us that side, to be honest. Still, not long to wait now to find out.

Abr 1, 2011, 7:03am

Keep us clued in to your reactions, UKers. I like Romola Garai a lot, but my expectations fot adaptations are usually wary.

Abr 7, 2011, 7:45am

So, what do we think after last night's first episode? I have to say I was enthralled - I thought it was a million times better than I'd dared hope and I can't wait for next week. I'm trying to find just a tiny complaint and, if I have one at all, it would be in the looks of Agnes and Emmeline Fox - Agnes is supposed to be very pretty and doll-like, whereas the wonderful Mrs Fox should be a little horsey-looking and not a woman men would pursue for of her looks but those are very minor grumbles and probably unworthy ones (I'm also not entirely sure why Mrs Fox's father has suddenly become her brother but maybe they just thought there wasn't enough of an age difference in their actors - it makes no difference to the story). Setting those aside, I can't imagine how it could have been done better (and well done to the writers for including bith the market in sick girls and the skin disease - see #15). I have my name down to be notified the minute the DVD comes out and I won't be wiping my recordings until that is safely within my grasp.

Abr 7, 2011, 1:59pm

I'll bet Canada gets this before we (U.S.) do. I live in Michigan and always got CBC until we got satellite t.v. For some reason we don't get CBC anymore. And when/if it comes to the U.S., it probably won't be on a channel I get. So I guess I wait for the DVD. I'll reserve it on Netflix tonight if possible.

Abr 7, 2011, 4:37pm

Yes, part one looked pretty good. You can see why they couldn't afford Easyjet to Berlin for the Isherwood thing.
A bit heavy on the hairdressing: William looks more like a footballer than a would-be writer with all that 21st century designer stubble, and the minor passing reference in the book to Matthew Arnold's sideburns has somehow been made into a major plot point. I agree that the casting of Agnes and Mrs Fox is a bit unexpected: it sort of works for Mrs Fox, but I wasn't very convinced by Agnes.
As Booksloth says, those are minor quibbles: full marks to the BBC for taking it on and not toning down the nasty side. If they go on like this I might almost forgive them for letting Mr Cameron take away the World Service from medium wave...

Abr 8, 2011, 5:14am

I always saw William as a bit of a young Jeremy Irons, to be honest, (and there is all that stuff at the beginning about his crazy hair and the hat-buying so I guess I see where they're going with the Matthew Arnold stuff) but it didn't take me long to settle into the actors except for Mrs Fox - to me she's even odder casting than Agnes because Agnes is attractive, just not in that china-doll way. Emmeline, OTOH, had a lot of her character formed by her lack of looks so casting her as a pretty dainty little thing seem hugely anomalous to me. Not only her character, but Henry's too - because the literary Henry (to me, at least) scored a lot of points for falling in love with her character and not her looks, whereas falling for this one would be all too easy for even the shallowest of men. I'm niggling - I really am - I can't wait for next Wednesday.

May 5, 2011, 1:33am

So how's the show going?

May 12, 2011, 5:43am

It was just great! I was very impressed indeed by how well they'd done it, especially considering the length and complexity of the novel. I had really expected huge swathes of the story to have been excised but that wasn't the case at all. Nor was everything squashed in so tightly that it felt like a race to the finishing line, as so often happens. I was all set to be disappointed by this as I didn't think anyone would ever be able to match my own vision of the book but I've got the DVD ordered and can't wait to see it again.

A couple of very tiny niggles have to do with casting - as I've said above, Emmeline Fox just didn't feel right to me; also, I cannot understand why Mrs Fox's father suddenly became her brother - unless it was because Richard E Grant begged for the part and insisted he wasn't old enough to play her father (which is debatable). Still, it was just a very tiny annoyance and not worth grumbling about - it made no real difference to anything else. Sugar, Caroline, William, Henry and pretty much everyone else were all perfect in their roles and the makers even resisted the temptation to alter an ending that hasn't been universally popular with readers. It'll be going on my DVD shelf next to the BBC version of Middlemarch and that's high praise indeed.

Editado: May 16, 2011, 7:06am

A lot of other things got in the way, but finally I watched the last two parts this weekend. It was well done, but I don't think it lived up to the claims they were making for it. It was costume drama with sex and a bit of social comment, just like the Sarah Waters adaptations, Fanny Hill, and all the rest. I don't think that it added anything to my understanding of the book, except perhaps to reinforce a conviction that Faber is rather unduly long-winded in his descriptive passages.

The location choice was a bit odd, although that probably had more to do with budget than anything else. Manchester Town Hall was a bit too grand(*) to stand in for St Giles convincingly, whilst the pumping station was nicely Victorian but totally implausible as a soap factory (though I suppose it could be an ironic comment on the cosmetics industry to equate soapmaking with sewage pumping). Using the pumping station again with a puff of steam and a sound effect to represent a railway station just looked cheap: it's the sort of thing you only get away with in live theatre.

(*) and too new: you wouldn't expect a Victorian slum to have cutting-edge neo-gothic architecture

May 16, 2011, 2:30pm

I may have to just wait it out and see if I might be able to rent it somewhere when and if it ever comes out in the US. . . Unless I can find it cheap somewhere online. I think I can over look the location choices if the casting isn't too distracting for me, and I don't think it will be, judging by what has been said here. Thanks for the updates on the show.

May 18, 2011, 12:39pm

I had a flick through the last part of the the book again today, and realised that they had made a couple of quite significant additions to the ending in the TV adaptation: the business of cutting Agnes's hair before she sets off and the biff with Mrs Fox's walking stick that Sugar gives the coachman. The first obviously fits in with the designer's hair-obsession I touched on earlier, but it also makes sure that the audience gets the point about the body in the river; the second seems to be throwing away some of the ambiguity of Faber's ending by implying that from now on Sugar becomes the violent person she has been writing about.