CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: A forbidden romance with a troubling heart

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: In black and white, a forbidden romance with a troubling heart

Noughts + Crosses

Rating:

Villages By The Sea

Rating:

Every generation remakes Romeo And Juliet in its own image. 

In the Fifties there was West Side Story, with its fabulous music and whirling petticoats, set against a backdrop of gang violence in New York.

The Nineties gave us Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic, rich and poor thrown together in a world of doomed extravagance.

Now the classic story is told again with black vs white, in Noughts + Crosses (BBC1) — a tale of love across the divide in a dystopian, apartheid Britain.

If this is meant to be a parable with the colours reversed, then it is a dishonest one, and a hypocritical one too — running the risk of stirring up the very prejudices it pretends to condemn

There’s nothing uplifting or aspirational about this version. It’s full of recriminations, resentment, guilt and prejudice. How very 21st century.

The forbidden romance at the heart of Noughts + Crosses is still appealing. 

Masali Baduza plays 17-year-old Sephy Hadley, the spoilt daughter of a hardline Home Secretary who indulges her every whim, just as he cracks down on the mutinous unrest among Britain’s white underclass.

Jack Rowan plays Callum, the son of the Hadley family’s white housekeeper (Helen Baxendale, always excellent). Callum and Sephy played together as children. Now their eyes meet at a party (he’s a servant, she’s swanning round in a gorgeous gown) and instantly they fall in love.

But in this version of Britain, renamed Albion, all the wealth and power lies in the hands of the black ruling class.

There’s nothing uplifting or aspirational about this version. It’s full of recriminations, resentment, guilt and prejudice. How very 21st century

Callum risks a beating or worst just for speaking to a girl like Sephy. Meanwhile, his best friend was beaten into a coma by black police in paramilitary uniforms for the crime of answering back.

Shakespeare’s original Romeo And Juliet is a violent play, of course, with brawls and stabbings between the enemy clans.

But there’s a deeply unpleasant undercurrent to Noughts + Crosses, an implication that the brutal racism of the drama somehow reflects real-world racism pervading Britain.

If this is meant to be a parable with the colours reversed, then it is a dishonest one, and a hypocritical one too — running the risk of stirring up the very prejudices it pretends to condemn.

Thankfully, some parts of our real Britain are as far removed from that nightmare as could ever be imagined.

One such place is Clovelly, where life is barely different from how it was in the 1800s. 

But in this version of Britain, renamed Albion, all the wealth and power lies in the hands of the black ruling class. Callum risks a beating or worst just for speaking to a girl like Sephy

This cascade of half-timbered houses on the steep shore of north Devon was visited by historian Ben Robinson in the first of his excursions along the coastline, Villages By The Sea (BBC2).

There has been a harbour wall here for 700 years, protecting little boats like the picarooner sailed by local fisherman Stephen. 

He comes from generations of fisher folk and still manoeuvres his vessel with a single oar at the stern, almost like a punting pole. The boat has no engine.

Young mother Ellie can watch him set out to sea each morning from her kitchen door, which opens on to the harbourside.

Once, the cottage was home to Crazy Kate who, according to local legend, went mad after she stood in that doorway during a storm and watched powerless as her husband’s boat was sunk.

Years later, still consumed by grief, the poor woman put on her wedding dress and waded into the waves, to be with the man she loved.

This promises to be a smashing little series: part history, part inspiration for your holidays, and filled with facts that make you say: ‘I didn’t know that.’

For instance, since lorries (like all motor vehicles) are banned from Clovelly’s cobbled streets, the tenants move their furniture by hand-drawn sleds when they swap houses.

I didn’t know that.

Aerial ace of the night:  Former racing driver Yve Mann flew a Spitfire on Warbird Workshop (Yesterday channel), as a salute to her late husband Peter, an RAF pilot. 

‘Let’s have some fun,’ she whooped, before tackling a victory roll. Attagirl!

Source: Read Full Article