First Night of Passion; Television ONE of the Sexiest Novels in Literature Is Being Brought to the Small Screen by Warwickshire Writer Andrew Davies. TV Writer MARION McMULLEN Checks out the Bawdy Tale of a Young Girl Trying to Make Her Way in the Wicked City
Byline: MARION McMULLEN
IT is, perhaps, the ultimate I kiss-and-tell story," declares I Warwickshire writer Andrew Davies about infamous, classic novel Fanny Hill. John Cleland's saucy tale follows the fortunes of vulnerable young girl Fanny who is lured to London after losing her parents to smallpox.
Seized upon by notorious madam Mrs Brown, Fanny's virtue is tested by the lascivious Mr Crofts, but her heart belongs to true love Charles. The cast is led by Alison Steadman, Samantha Bond and Hugo Speer and introduces newcomer Rebecca Night as Fanny. Kenilworth-based Andrew Davies says Fanny is sharp and streetwise but is different from many anti-heroines in literature because she preserves a romantic heart through all her misadventures.
"She prefers virtue to vice and she is quite unabashed in her enthusiasm for sex - all very endearing qualities, to my mind," says Andrew. "She is clever enough, and lucky enough, to come through some pretty hair-raising experiences relatively unscathed.
"Fanny Hill is a brilliant story about a young woman learning the ways of the world - and making the world work for her."
Actress Alison Steadman plays bawdy madam Mrs Brown in Fanny Hill and last worked with Andrew in the BBC's successful 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
"As soon as I knew it was Andrew Davies doing the adaptation, it was a definite plus for me," says Alison. "I think Andrew's brilliant, people sometimes think that because an adaptation already has the story written there is very little to do. That's nonsense as an adapter can make an absolute hash of a novel and not bring anything to it.
"What Andrew does is take a wonderful story and add his own twist to it. He's quite courageous in the way he writes so he's not afraid to put a few new things in but also you never feel that they're not period or they're not right, he just gives it another twist which is fun to do and fun to read."
Fanny Hill, which starts on BBC4 on Monday, allows Alison to play a real tough battle-axe. "When I read the script I just loved the character of Mrs Brown, it's a real character part for me, something I can really get my teeth into. She is one of those people who can be sweet as honey on the outside but as hard as nails, as tough as old boots.
"She runs this business, an establishment for gentlemen to visit and all the girls seem quite happy but my God, if they don't do exactly what she wants they would know about it.
"She's really got them trapped because if they weren't there they'd probably be in the workhouse which was the reality of the period and is pretty awful.
"The fact that men would pay a couple of guineas in 1740 to sleep with a virgin is absolutely extraordinary and of course to find these young pretty girls and get them entangled in your web, as Mrs Brown does, is a very lucrative business and a very nasty business in the end."
Meanwhile, Rebecca has no fears about playing a heroine whose name has become synonymous with sex.
"Fanny is an amazing character," she points out. …