Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

A Very English Scandal

Russell T Davies is a kindly writer. His dramatization of the Thorpe affair- A Very English Scandal- is- on the showing of the first of three episodes- played partly for laughs but mainly for sympathy.

Historically the Thorpe affair erupted during the boom years of post war British satire. Private Eye truffled about in it, Auberon Waugh stood against Thorpe in his North Devon seat for the Dog Lovers Party- in memory of Rinka, Norman Scott's great dane- shot by Thorpe's hitman during a bungled murder attempt- and Peter Cook performed a devastating parody of the trial judge's outrageously one-sided summing up. No-one came out of it well. Scott was mauled in the media (well he was a blackmailer), Thorpe was acquitted but forfeited the political career for which he was prepared to kill and the politial and legal establishments covered themselves in dishonour. Davies doesn't question this narrative but asks us to see the poor bloody fools at the centre of it as, well, poor bloody fools. They were gay men- in the last generation before decriminalisation- nod-nodding and wink-winking their way through life in the shadow of Reading Gaol- and who are we- who are free of that sort of pressure- to judge them? He paints Scott as out and proud before his time; "We think because he's effeminate he's weak", Says Alex Jennings' Peter Bessell, "but I think he's the bravest man in Britain". As for Thorpe, he benefits from being played by Hugh Grant who has a track record of playing a rather different kind of charmer. The real Thorpe had a wolfish face; Grant's is friendly and open. Was Thorpe ever in love with Scott? Davies doesn't go so far as to say that he was, but allows the question to hang in the air.

Grant is splendid, but the great performance comes from Ben Wishaw- whose Scott is fragile, vulnerable, needy, oddly fearless and almost entirely loveable.
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