12 March 2011 | pfgpowell-1
A budget cutback took it's toll, but still worth your time
Well, The Devil's Whore gets two cheers for trying – OK, make that two and a half - and if in some ways it failed, I don't think it should get all the blame. It seems that what was conceived of a 12-part series hit the financial buffers of necessity became a four-part series and, unfortunately, in many ways it shows. What finally hit the screens over four one-hour episodes is by no means bad and is most certainly very entertaining, but it is something of a mongrel, a hotch-potch of this, that and t'other. The background - well, more than the background - the whole context to what purports to be a true account of a fictional character is a period in British history which is not only fascinating but which led to the foundation of democracy throughout the world. But it was anything but straightforward: it wasn't simply a question of 'the people' rising up against 'the king' as many believe, but an intricate and complex realignment of authority and power. It began in the reign of Charles I and more or less concluded when his son, Charles II, was restored to the throne and England and Scotland once again had a monarchy. But it was a very different monarchy which now existed and over the next 150 led to the creation of parliament which Brtitain likes to boast was the template of all other parliaments. (It wasn't really, but that is here not the issue). But for a very nasty period of 20 years, Britain was convulsed by strife and civil war in which many died and which saw a great deal of death and brutality. In the Levellers, the country experienced what would later be known as communism but it also saw how privilege and property is so engrained in the fabric of this and all other countries that it takes more than ideals and violence to dislodge them. That is the background, and a 12-part series from the same team which produce this cutdown lite version might well have made a good fist of explaining the complexities of that time. In the event they don't, and what we do get at the historical and political level is akin to a primary school textbook account. The Devil's Whore is also something of a bodice-ripper, and here it perhaps scores a little more. And I suspect that element, the romance and dashing hero stuff would have found a way of fitting in quite nicely with an intelligent exposition of the English Civil War and its aftermath. The problem is that those who see The Devil's Whore might well remember that as their 'history', but it does take enormous liberties with the truth in the interests of creating rattling entertainment. Thus Thomas Rainsborough, Edward Sexby, John Lilburne and, of course, Oliver Cromwell were all historical characters, but in this version they are fictionalised to such an extent that often only their names remain what is true about them. There is also the quibble, a pretty universal fault, of coincidence: blow me do the various characters appear in just the right spot at just the right time. Right on cue. And they manage to travel some distances with no bother at all. Then there's the curious matter of the Devil, who appears, usually sitting on a tree, at the strangest moments. I assume he is the Devil for whom the heroine Angelica Fanshawe is the 'whore', but that must remained supposition as no explanation for his continued appearance is even attempted. And what about Prince Rupert, bosom pal of Angelica's first husband who even turns up in the wedding chamber on her wedding night, but then suddenly disappears from view never to be heard, seen or spoken of again. Odd. That, too, was probably a victim of the cuts from a 12-parter to a third that length. No doubt such anomalies might have been ironed out had the money been there and the series been a 12-parter after all. As it is we have to put up with outrageous suspension of disbelief. Overall, of course, and sitting side by side with other TV drama, The Devil's Whore isn't half bad and most certainly very entertaining. The pity is that for want of a penny or two more it might well have been outstanding. But that it isn't.