Thursday 19 July 2018

Move over Poldark, Lady Chatterley's Lover set to steam up BBC Sunday night screens

Lady Chatterley's Lover - Richard Madden as Mellors (Josh Barratt)
Lady Chatterley's Lover - Richard Madden as Mellors (Josh Barratt)

Hannah Furness

It shocked the world with its obscenity and provided one of the most memorable and entertaining trials in the history of English law.

But the BBC's latest adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover may shock readers for another reason: its lack of female flesh.

The modern version of D H Lawrence's classic novel has been reconstructed into something very much for the ladies, with Poldark-style topless scenes to keep the women of Britain swooning.

While Richard Madden, who plays the famously gruff groundsman Mellors, is seen hammering without a shirt, Lady Chatterley herself, played by Holliday Grainger, is kept firmly under wraps for even the most delicate of scenes.

Lady Chatterley's Lover - Richard Madden as Mellors and Holliday Grainger as Constance Chatterley Photo: Josh Barratt
Lady Chatterley's Lover - Richard Madden as Mellors and Holliday Grainger as Constance Chatterley Photo: Josh Barratt

Instead, her character will be "empowered", made festier and more decisive to suit a modern day heroine.

The show's writer, the Bafta-nominated Jed Mercurio, said he had deliberately chosen not to include the language and sex scenes so shocking at the time of the book's publication, claiming he preferred to focus on the "emotion" of the piece.

While Lawrence felt the need to break boundaries, he said, the battle for freedom of expression has already been won, making it no longer necessary to forge new ground in obscenity.

Instead the adaptation, which makes significant changes to the novel and previous television series, tells the story of Lady Chatterley and her indiscretions as a love story.

It is a far cry from the content of the original novel, which features explicit sex and an eye-popping number of the most extreme expletives in the English language.

It also differs wildly from the BBC's last adaptation, by Ken Russell in 1993, which featured coarse language full frontal nudity from Joely Richardson and Sean Bean frollicking through woods.

Aidan Turner as Poldark
Aidan Turner as Poldark

The new 90-minute BBC version, to be broadcast in September, features just two mild swear words in its entirety.

And while it contains a handful of the intimate scenes so essential to the plot, none expose their young actors' bodies and only one is likely to raise an eyebrow over supper.

The scene, shot in a rain storm, sees a lustful Lady Chatterley run to her new beau in her nightdress, in a frenzied yet fully-clothed scene in which he performs a sex act on her outside his rustic cabin.

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Even the opening shot, which features men working down a mine pre- First World War, is a natural successor to the Poldark effect; a knowing wink to the tastes of its female viewers.

Around eight million people watched the BBC's remake of Poldark earlier this year, with women in raptures over its star Aidan Turner.

One scene in particular, in which he scythed a field topless, caused social media to go into overdrive, with the actor said to have been left "completely baffled" by the unexpected objectification.

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