Wednesday, 20 June 2012

the battle of finchley

There are moments when The Devil’s Whore,  on Channel 4, seems almost too rich and exotic to be a British drama. Hollywood’s accepted agenda for heroes — whether fighting aliens in Independence Day, Persians in 300, slave-owners in Amistad or the British in pretty much anything starring Mel Gibson — is the struggle for liberty and justice.
 Our homegrown screen champions, conversely, usually shuffle awkwardly through deeds performed for money, deception, loyalty or petty compromise. So it’s strange to hear epic speeches against tyranny delivered, without irony, by English lips.

“My liberty is his to take — but not to give,” a Leveller cries. “I am freeborn John Lilburne. We will not live like slaves. Nor will we loll in our beds while he bring in an Irish army or a 
Scotch army to kill us.” Later, Oliver Cromwell pleads for Lilburne in Parliament thus: “Then where is the justice for John Lilburne that rots still in the Fleet by a sentence most illegal, against the liberty of the subject, bloody, wicked, barbarous and tyrannical?”

If the language weren’t ambitious enough, there is the vast scope of Peter Flannery’s script — which some might argue resembles a vastly heightened period version of his previous big hit, Our Friends in the North. To remodel that drama’s catch line, this is a saga of two decades, five friends and their lives that shaped the world. The Devil’s Whore recounts the stories of comrades, enemies and lovers who battle, with varying degrees of idealism and brutality, through the civil war, from the closing days of the Eleven Years’ Tyranny to the post-war manoeuvring between parliament’s factions as the army, the radicals and the conservatives wrestle for the nation.
As in Our Friends, which saw Daniel Craig, Gina McKee, Christopher Eccleston and Mark Strong sharing a screen, the cream of our television acting talent has been assembled for this £7m four-parter. John Simm, from Life on Mars, plays a feral mercenary called Sexby; Dominic West, fresh from The Wire, is Cromwell; and Peter Capaldi transmutes the splenetic aggression of his The Thick of It spin doctor into Charles I’s stutter. At its heart is the Devil’s Whore herself — Angelica Fanshawe, played by Andrea Riseborough, of Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley fame.
Fanshawe is the one truly fictional creation of Flannery and his co-creator, the historian Martine Brant, in a sea of real historic

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