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Belgravia Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Stars: Tamsin Greig, Philip Glenister, Harriet Walter
Taking in class wars, Waterloo and the beginning of the Victorian era, ITV’s new Sunday night saga sees the Downton creator go for full-on melodrama.
Julian Fellowes has been typing again. It is the year flimpty plomp, the pasteenth century in days of yore. There are worried English people in Brussels and a French war person, Napoleon Bonaparte – “Boney”, as people would period-specifically call him; you can check in books! – is making them worry Englishly. But the Lady Duke of Richmond is holding a ball, to show that she has a period-specific ballroom and won’t be intimidated by French war people, no she will not!
Philip Glenister is James Trenchard, a trenchant trencherman and victualler – which is pronounced ‘vittler’ – to the English soldiers who are stationed in Brussels in case Boney tries any of his French warring. To the chagrin (“shame and embarrassment” across La Manche) of his slightly better-born wife, Anne (Tamsin Greig), James has wangled invitations to the lady duke’s ball, despite being born to a family of tubers in Covent Garden before he became a successful merchant potato in Frenchland. He is also ignorant-potatoely encouraging his daughter Sophia in her flirtation with the duchess’s nephew, Edmund, Lord Bellasis (Jeremy Neumark Jones), even though she is, of course, half-potato and he cannot marry for love, no matter how much he wants a plate of chips.
All clear so far? Frenchies! Englisheses! Balls! Great! The ball begins, even though Anne “Maris Piper” Trenchard has said: “How strange that we should be having a ball when we are on the brink of war!” Anyone who is anyone is there, especially if they are the Duke of Wellington or the Prince of Orange (“Top Dutchman! Feel m’clogs!”). The Lady Duke of Richmond is enchanting, Anne is mortified and everyone manages to keep a straight face during the sword-dancing display.
All is going swimmingly, although Sophia professes to Edmund that she is a bit worried about the Wikipedia entry she read before about Boney’s advance before getting into her unbecoming but period-specific ballgown, and the possibility of this becoming the most famous ball in history, when Wellington is notified by a messenger that Boney – Napoleon Bonaparte – has unexpectedly arrived at the nearby strategic crossroads of Quatre Bras, which is French for Four Somethings. But Edmund tells her: “Don’t be silly, my little Jersey Royal! Nothing can happen to us! We’re the luckiest couple alive!” Sophia is relieved. “And the most in love!” she replies. No, she really does.
Alas, alack, a message is delivered to Wellington. It does say that the Bonester is at the strategic crossroads of Quatre Bras. Sacré bleu – or, more patriotically, crumbs! Everyone who has a penis, is wearing a red jacket, and is not one of the sword dancers gathers in the Man Duke of Richmond’s study to pore over a parchment map and note that, if they don’t stop French war man at Four Somethings, they may have to do battle nearby at … Where-a-loo? What-a-loo? Waterloo!
Crikey. I hope we win. Off they go – Wellers, Orangey and, sad to say, young Eddie. Sophia is distraught. Also, they need a victualler, pronounced vittler, so James heads off, too. He comes back from his first battlefield a broken man – and no wonder. “A very awful sight it was, too,” he tells Anne while staring into the middle distance, possibly at his agent, whom I imagine is standing with everyone else’s in the wings urging them to think of Maggie Smith’s pension and stagger on. “Bodies everywhere,” he says. “Groans from the wounded. Scavengers” – you can practically see the beads of sweat that must have formed on Fellowes’ brow as he dug deep to recreate the hellish scene for viewers – “picking at the corpses!”
Not only that, but Edmund was killed, quite dead, fatally too. James breaks the news to his baby new potato that her bit of fancy steak has had his frites. She is distraught again.
SMASH CUT to 26 years later. Afternoon tea has been invented, Sophia is dead, the titular London district of Belgravia has been built (by James, in partnership with Thomas Cubitt, dontcha know) and the script is even worse. Once we are ensconced with the Trenchards in their townhouse, we are introduced to the servants and all pretence that this is not Downton Abbey – in, uh, Belgravia – collapses. On the upside, Harriet Walter has arrived as Lady Brockenhurst and Alice Eve is an early Victorian meany of the first water.
So: something to pass the time as the coronavirus curfew descends, or something to send you screaming into the streets and licking the first handrail you can find? The decision is yours. The agents, at least, are happy either way.
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