There has been a big gap in our lives since just before Christmas when all the good telly finished and gripping dramas were neatly wrapped up into satisfying conclusions. With the exception of The Missing which I am still cross about (poor James Nesbit just wanted closure). Oh, and Homeland, which ended so badly I thought I’d dreamt it. (Yes my dreams are that dull. I need to get out more). At least The Fall was satisfactory, unless they pull a fast one and the baddie survives for a third series. Surely Gillian Anderson has run out of silk blouses and lower rank officers to shag? (Interjection: Stella “no fucks given” Gibson is my absolute TV heroine of 2014).
Anyway, when I heard rumblings on Twitter about Wolf Hall, starring Brodie from Homeland as Henry the Eighth, my interest was piqued, so much so that I offered to review it on a national radio show (The Fred Macaulay Show, Radio Scotland, next Wednesday!).
It nearly all went wrong for me during the opening credits when I read the line, “Based on a novel by Hilary Mantel”. My heart sank as I realised this wasn’t going to be all thrusting codpieces, bare-breasted maidens and gluttonous red-headed monarchs beheading wives like Hugh Fearnly Wittingstall preparing ginuea fowl. Instead it was shaping up to be high-brow, historically accurate and downright educational.
In the old days, Before Kids, I would have happily devoured a historical novel or two. I loved Rose Tremaine’s wonderfully lewd, Music and Silence and have read Anna Karenin twice. Now however, I’m lucky if I can finish a Sunday supplement and generally nod off in bed after a round or two of CandyCrush. I have dumbed down significantly.
I stuck at it with Wolf Hall, eagerly awaiting Damian Lewis’s grand entrance, and passing the time by playing, “what’s HE/SHE been in?”. Meanwhile, as I screeched out, “that’s the wee chap from Love, Actually!!” (it was) and “is that him from Queer As Folk??” (It wasn’t), my husband sat with one eye on Wikipedia, helpfully pointing out who was who in terms of the actual plot.
It was very dark, and I mean that literally. There were lots of candlelit scenes in which it was difficult to make out who was talking, all though generally they were all called Thomas. I thought it was just our ancient telly, which is deeper than it is wide but there have been complaints.
I worried for the safety of little Grace, (Thomas) Cromwell’s daughter – twatting about in angel wings is just asking for trouble in a period drama – but was utterly shocked when her poor sister and mother also died of the bizarre sounding ‘sweating sickness’. (I am never exercising again). Poor old Cromwell already looked like life had given him lemons before the invention of lemonade, but he rallied marvellously and did his best to save his chum (Thomas, obvs) Wosley from murderous Henry, who was still notably absent.
Nearing the end, with no executions and no Damian Lewis, suddenly there he was, tucked away at the side in a court scene, no pomp and no ceremony. I was a little disappointed but I have been ruined by inferior productions, deliberately camping things up for telly. (I’m thinking of The Tudors a few years ago. Utter filth. Loved it.)
Clever friends who have read the book say it’s an excellent adaptation and I certainly couldn’t fault the plot (as I know eff all about history). The acting is fabulous and I soon stopped shouting “smile for fucksake” whenever Cromwell appeared (played superbly by that chap who wasn’t in Queer as Folk) as it was clearly just his character and he’d been through a lot.
I will watch next week as we’ll get more of horrid Henry and I think Cromwell cheers up a bit as he plots to severe England’s ties with the Catholic Church just so our Henry can get laid. Seems a bit extreme but who am I to argue with Hilary Mantel or Wikipedia.