Theatre: No Sex Please, We're High-Brow Literature ; Andrew Davies' Latest Adaptation Is Upsetting the Purists. Nothing New, Says James Rampton Finds Him in Asuasyauys Duays Duays D Asthis
Rampton, James, The Independent (London, England)
When Patrick Standish (Rupert Graves) is first introduced to the gorgeous Jenny Bunn (Sienna Guillory) in the new BBC1 drama, Take A Girl Like You, he says "Hello" with the sort of "Phwhoar" insinuation that Leslie Phillips would be proud of. This is a man who could philander for Britain. His questionable attitudes lie at the heart of Andrew Davies's adaptation of the 1960 Kingsley Amis novel, and Patrick's predatory approach to women may well put feminist backs up. But Davies is accustomed by now to donning a tin hat to protect himself.
Despite being the acknowledged master of the literary adaptation, responsible for such screenplays as Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch and Wives and Daughters, he has copped his fair share of flak over the years - invariably on the subject of sex. He was lambasted for turning Becky Sharp into a kind of ball-breaking, Nineties girl- power icon in his provocative reading of Vanity Fair (BBC1), and excoriated for dreaming up what many regarded as a gratuitous lesbian encounter in his version of Moll Flanders for ITV. "That was terrible," groans John Mullan, who teaches English Literature at University College, London. "In the book, there's no sex at all. When Moll does go to bed with a man, she says things like: `And so the reader will be as ashamed as I am that my virtue then relented.' It's just cheating to show sex scenes. Davies did a milder version of what Playboy would have done with Moll Flanders."
Davies has now waded into a fresh row over his sexually-charged interpretation of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, due to be broadcast by the BBC next year. His suggestion that Felix gives Ruby Ruggles "a good seeing- to" has the Trollope Society, among others, up in arms. Meeting Davies in person, it is hard to see what all the fuss is about. He is sweet reason personified, an amiable man with a shock of white hair who might pass as your twinkly great uncle. He sees the spat over The Way We Live Now as a storm in a teacup. "Didn't people have sex then?", he asks, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. …