Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Television

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Television

Article excerpt

Byline: PETE CLARK

Charles II - The Power & The Passion Sunday 9pm BBC1 ...

No sooner has Henry VIII waddled into the sunset, than the altogether more svelte figure of Charles II seizes the opportunity to strut his stuff on the television stage of history. The second Charles returned in triumph from years of exile to rescue the country from the roundhead lock of the Cromwells, Oliver and Richard, and avenge the death of his father. His return to London was greeted by cheering and the strewing of petals. If only the third Charles could look forward to such a welcome.

The Power & The Passion is the latest confirmation that history is now to be celebrated for its cruelty and vigorous sexual workouts, plus combinations of the two, rather than its pompous ceremonies and gorgeous outfits. We begin with the beheading of Charles I as witnessed by his son (Rufus Sewell, right), who has somehow contrived to position himself directly under the killing platform, all the better to be spattered with daddy's blood.

Naturally, within moments, this is revealed to be a dream sequence, but the sanguineous tone has been established. The phrase 'Heads will roll' is no longer a threat, but a promise.

The equally essential sexual element does not take much longer to rear its ugly head. Charles and his best chum, the Duke Of Buckingham, need to have a good old chit chat about how exactly the throne of England is to be secured, so what better place to have it than in a brothel with a pair of inquisitive tarts fiddling with their undergarments? This is small potatoes, though, compared to the antics of Charles's mistress Barbara Villiers (played with animal relish by Helen McCrory) who is on a one-woman mission to turn the entire court on to oral sex.

To be fair, the script by Adrian Hodges does allude to the fact that these are momentous times in the history of the country. The old puritans are still threatening, Parliament rumbles discontentedly and the fear and hatred of the papists is unabated. …

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