In the decade that was simply the worst of eras, we extended from Downton Abbey dross to a prance masterwork about the first modern dyke. Costume drama has tightened its corset at last!
As a lens through which to contemplate the past, point theatre is the” obstinate, headstrong girl !” of British culture. If you want to get all Jane Austen about it, which of course you do. The category most indiscriminately beloved by the country has expended decades stubbornly shooing biography apart with a gloved hand in favour of a more manicured( read: ritzy, white-hot) account to seeing how we have lived. Backpedal to the comparatively pleasant uplands of the late Noughties, when New Labour was in its death throes and telephone hacking at News International crowned its president( OK , not so pleasant ). What were we saluting our slippers to on a Sunday night? Cranford! That confection filled with sugared dames force-feeding “cat-o-nine-tails” laxatives to retrieve lost Victorian lace. Not exactly representative of the times. More like hitching up its hems to escape them.
In contrast, the 2010 s- which to take a mallet to the Dickens quote was simply” the most difficult of durations”- were when period drama ultimately tightened its corset. When a category characterised by nostalgia cast open the Georgian shutters to the realities of hasten, class and sexuality that had always been there. Sort of. It was also the activities of the decade that propelled with Downton Abbey. Yet this, very, was in perfect keeping with the 2010 s’ ever-rising levels of polarisation. In what other 10 -year span might we have entered stage-right with Julian Fellowes’ handsome post-Edwardian drama, which loped for six buttoned-up seasons and culminated in the promise of a film simply Americans could love. Then departed stage-left with Gentleman Jack, a sly, swaggering and deep sincere masterpiece about a Yorkshire woman dubbed the first modern lesbian, directed by the Andrew Davies of the 2010 s. Our brand-new crown: Sally Wainwright.
It was in Wainwright’s skilled northern mitts that interval drama altered into the tanking present. Became raw, windy, true, incendiary, funny in the most off-kilter British sense. In To Walk Invisible, her stunning chronicle of the three pinched years in which the Bronte sisters wrote the tales that attained them prominent, we got a version of then that was viscerally now. There was privation, alcoholism and not a marriage in sight. Everyone gaped cold, all the time. In Gentleman Jack, Wainwright proved she could pull off a cavort while crafting cliffhangers out of the trials and tribulations of 19 th-century coal mining. Consider the high-pitched dreamy finale, tuned in to by millions, that realize Suranne Jones’ roguish Anne Lister and her beloved, Ann Walker, declaring their kindnes atop a windblown Yorkshire hill.” Don’t hurt me. I’m not as strong as you think I am ,” Lister said, before adding with a soft-butch stoicism never before seen in a primetime period drama slot,” Well, I am, clearly .” As an remedy to the badly-acted costume drama playing out in parliament, it was perfect.