Tuesday, 16 December 2008

I will make noise...

According to the advertising on C4, The Devil's Whore tells the epic story of the English Civil War through the eyes of a spirited aristocratic woman who is drawn to the anti-monarchist cause at a time when England dared to execute its King and search for an alternative means of government.

The first episode saw Lady Angelica Fanshawe, darling of the King's Court, married to her childhood friend, Harry, to secure the family fortune.

And then her confusion in the marital bed when he expressed his horror at her gaspingly approving responses to his lovemaking. 'Are you a whore, Madam? Wherefrom these noises in the night?'

'You will not make noise,' he commanded and we witness her consternation as he places his hand over her mouth to ensure that it is so.

But, later, with the love of her life, Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, she finds a man who is quite unperturbed at her assertion prior to their coupling that 'I confess that I will not be silent...'

How many women in those days must have suffered from sexual repression as well as personal abasement before their male masters? In a world where only whores and courtesans were allowed to express any enjoyment in carnal activity and women were meant to be silent wives in harness to their husband's property.

As Rainsborough tells Angelica in his description of his future wife:

Such a one as lives and worships in freedom. One who knows how to truly love a man and be loved... Not a painted child who knows nothing but a thousand years of privilege and calls it breeding or manners, calls submission duty and lives only to please a man and pass on his property through his sons. I will have a free spirit, Madam, and a beautiful one. ...I may not find her but I believe that she will find me.

He was a man ahead of his times in his determination that all men and women should be equal, with none subservient to another and his rather naive and romantic belief that it could ever be so.

John Simm plays Edward Sexby, another such man, who worships Angelica and has made it his business to protect her because of the joy she brought into his life, even marrying her knowing that she did not love him. Eventually, of course, she appreciates his worth and understands the continuity of his devotion enough to return his feelings.

In Rainsborough and Sexby, Angelica found two gems. For to have a man who rejoices in the lusty and vocal celebration of a woman's orgasm, who actively encourages such a crescendo with the view that it is a pleasure for him to precipitate such a reaction is a joy indeed. A man who wants an independent woman with a mind of her own, not some placid underling that he can isolate and mould into doing his bidding. It made me realise that it is a concept which appears to be as rare today as it was then. I love to make a noise but it is only possible with a man who can create the environment where I feel comfortable enough to release all the inner tension and let go.

It was most disconcerting to find in Andrea Riseborough a woman who is as thin and white as myself. To see her naked in bed with her lovers was very strange because I am so used to seeing actresses who have been enhanced both surgically and in terms of skin colour but she did look very beautiful in a very non-conventional way.

The puritan ethos of enjoying nothing has always made me view the time of the Protectorate with a certain disdain. My sympathies lying absolutely with Charles I, I was a staunch Royalist. Because, for all the Roundhead complaints, the lifestyle of what was considered his decadent Court was as nothing compared to that of his son, Charles II, where licentiousness reigned supreme, almost in a reaction to the decade of frugal circumspection that had gone before.

And yet the way Peter Flannery has dramatised the Civil War and romanticised the cause of the Commonwealth for a change has caused me to think again. Well, that and the gorgeous Michael Fassbender playing Rainsborough.

I couldn't find a picture that satisfactorily reflects his Devil's Whore incarnation so I shall have to inflict upon you a half-naked version of his character in '300' to illustrate the persuasiveness of his role.

If only this programme had been around when I was studying this at school, I would have been a much more receptive student. Battles like Kineton, Marston Moor and Naseby became more than just dry dates on a page, as did the politics of the time. The innumerable parliament names, rump, long, short, etc., etc. The various different factions and beliefs - Levellers, Ranters, et al. Suddenly I understood the reasoning behind them.

I read that Peter Flannery spent several years touting his project between the BBC and Channel 4, originally envisaging 12 episodes but this was cut to four when it came to actual funding from C4.

He has succeeded in producing a work that not only makes a rather dull period of history quite enthralling but one which has at its centre a vital, independent woman who is not afraid to live her life to the full through sex, joy and hope.

The life and times of Angelica Fanshawe. A historical heroine in the grand traditions of Sergeanne Golon's Angelique and Juliet Benzoni's Catherine, the literary idols of my teenage years.

It's available to watch from Episode 1 on C4OD.

Highly recommended.


Semele said...

As a fellow noise-maker, I too found the scene where Harry silences her disconcerting. I've found that most men find my moans and groans immensely arousing if anything.

But, Sexby - why, oh why?!

Carnalis said...

I wish they had made the 12 episodes.

I am a huge fan of Dominic West; he gave Oliver a dirty allure.

TROLL said...

I think I'd have been a Cav.

Gorilla Bananas said...

You favour the Royalists because they were sexually liberated? Haha, Mrs Cake, that's a very female approach to politics! Lady gorillas like the Bourbon kings because of their wigs!

Dazza said...

The English Civil War - dull!!! Ha ha, depends on you point of view I guess, I'm sure it was anything but dull at the time.

On noise making, the more the better... although it can be quite fun and sexy to try and be silent, 'cos there is someone nearby you don't want to hear.


Kevin Musgrove said...

I could do without the moans. I was once severely put off my stride by "that ceiling could do with replastering."

Walker said...

A caged beast has no spirit only anger and resentment but when the bonds are broken freedom sparks life