Tuesday 17 September 2019

SANDITON the first four episodes. HOT STUFF

Charlotte Heywood played by Rose Williams.

Episode 1 of Andrew Davis’s Sanditon an unfinished novel by Jane Austen. How much is it Jane Austen and how much Andrew Davis? That is the question. I read Sanditon a few days before the airing of this first episode to remind myself of Jane’s plot strands and initial characterisations. This first episode began. The countryside setting wasn’t as I imagined. There was no narrow country lane impassable by the carriage the Parkers were travelling in. I suppose the main plot features were there, the carriage accident, the care provided by the Heywood family, a  blossoming friendship between the two families,   the Parkers in search of a surgeon in the area, the offer to Charlotte Heywood of a visit to  Sanditon. Much was missing though. The friendly effusive Mr Parker revealed a dark side in the novel. He hated and loathed a rival resort called Brinshore. He provides a hellish description. No mention of such place in this episode. I would have thought the rivalry would have been a powerful theme to pursue. Jane Austen created a tension and contrast between the old and the new, the traditional social structures and the new fluid structures a place like Sanditon might produce. None of this contrast. Some characters are missing. One of the Parker sisters doesn’t exist. Sydney Parker has no servant to drive. Lady Denham appears to have lost one of her three families, The Hollis’s. The Breretons and the Denhams do feature. Some of the characterization is wrong. Sir Edward Denham, who was a fool and snobbish beyond belief in Jane Austens Sanditon is turned into a wicked, cunning lothario and hell bent on finding a wealthy heiress at all costs. His sister too has evil intents it appears. In this episode an overtly sexual encounter is witnessed by Charlotte Heywood between Sir Edward and Clara Brereton. Jane Austen would never have written such a thing. Many of the characters are recognizable as exaggerated examples of Austen characters from other novels. Sydney Parker is a harsher more boorish Darcy. Charlotte Heywood is an even more opinionated and more intelligent version of Elizabeth Bennet. Sir Edward and Miss Denham have become even more wicked versions of Henry and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park.Andrew Davis is taking his characters to extremes, especially the wicked Lady Denham. Jane Austen was more subtle. Maybe Davis thinks people today are unable to understand subtlety. Who knows? And most of the male lead characters get their kit off and go swimming. All in all I was disappointed. Perhaps because I know and enjoy the way Jane Austen writes. Andrew Davis has driven a coach and horses through all that. What will happen next?

Chalotte Heywood and Sydney Parker walk on the beach.

Episode 2 of Sanditon and Andrew Davis has thrown ALL caution to the wind. 

Lady Denham thinks Charlotte is very intelligent. Mr Tom Parker looks at her quizzically and makes her his company accountant. She herself has a second career in mind of course, as the architect of Sanditon.How intelligent can you get? She announces she doesn't want to get married. She stares down Sydney and tells him where to get off with his boorish behaviour. She plays the Good Samaritan and saves poor Miss Lambe from jumping off a cliff and commiting suicide. Miss Lambe, has by this point, been treated abominably because of her colour. There are lots of racist innuendos and comments. Thats Lady Denham again. A series of sharp, verbal exchanges takes place,back and forth, up and down and all around, between Sir Edward, his sister and Clara Brereton about ,"hand jobs." Clara, knows a thing or two. There is some repartee in appreciation of a pineapple. “Don't touch my pineapple. Leave my pineapple alone," Lady Denham again. The pineapple is rotten to the heart, squirming with worms and stinking. A few characters do come to mind. And, if that wasn't enough, a completely naked Sydney Parker emerges from the sea, ( what happened to the wet shirt? Darn it. Too much trouble.) in front of Charlotte who turns her back, gamely tries to make conversation and then decides she has had enough and runs away. Cue, shaky hand held camera action running alongside Charlotte with some panting sounds and blurriness to boot. Blimey. That was exhausting. BUT, it wasn't Jane Austen.

Miss Georgiana Lambe

Episode 3 Can we now forget Jane Austen in connection with this series of Sanditon? Almost, but not quite. There are echoes of Austen still apparent.  

So, in this episode the themes Andrew Davis has set out in the previous two programmes continue and are developed. Building work continues of the new Sanditon, although it is really the Old Sanditon that appears to be being refurbished and rebuilt. Mr Stringer, is desperate for more workers and new building equipment to help him construct the town. Tom Parker is as enthusiastic about Sanditon as ever although the dark undercurrent of possible failure and bankruptcy looms making him a haunted man. Mrs Parker is evidently worried about her husband. Tom Parker asks his brother Sydney to request more funds from their bankers in London, £2000, possibly £3000. That is a lot of money in the early 1800s.

 Old Mr Stringer, the father of the younger Mr Stringer is badly injured in an accident when stones from the building work fall on his legs. Charlotte of course does her Anne Elliot bit and takes charge to the admiration of Sydney.  A German Doctor, Doctor Maximillian Fuchs, or in Mr Parkers parlance, Dr Fox, performs an operation, resetting the leg. 

Dr Fuchs, sorry, Dr Fox , here in England the innuendos are legion with a name like that, persuaded by Mr Parker to come to Sanditon from nearby Worthing, has invented a wonder machine, a shower and bath unit driven by a steam engine. The Industrial Revolution gets to Sanditon.Clara Brereton volunteers to try this shower bath in front of a skeptical Lady Denham, a cynical Sir Edward and Esther Denham and a hopeful Mr Parker and his family. Mr Parker thinks the introduction of Dr Fox to Sanditon will be a great incentive for more people to visit and stay.Hidden behind a surrounding curtain Clara performs a gruesome self harming act deliberately burning her arm on the side of the steam engine. A plot to gain Lady Denhams continued sympathy in her fight with Sir Edward and his sister Esther who are out to discredit her and remove her as a rival to Lady Denhams wealth.Esther Denham wonders how she could suffer so much pain to gain her ends and digs her claw like nails into Claras injured arm. There is an element of sadism  in this episode. Clara explains quite calmly, “This is nothing compared to what I have endured in the past.” We begin to wonder seriously about her past history. A brutal scene. 

Diana and Arthur Parker suddenly become hypochondriacs, a missing element so far, as they hurry vigorously across the cliff tops to visit the said doctor at Lady Denhams house listing their ailments loudly as they go , dry skin, the ague, canker, goiter and the list is endless. But how healthy they look. 

Charlotte Heywood and Sydney meet in the street and admit  that they have perhaps misunderstood each other in the past and both make their apologies. Echoes of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.There is a glint  in both their eyes. Any nudity in this episode you might ask? None at all . Actually that is not quite true. At the sight of Sydney, Charlotte has a rather erotic flashback. 

Miss Lambe, who has apparently recovered from her suicidal thoughts  is behaving as wayward as ever in fighting against the restraints put on her. She appears to have a secret lover. She wears a locket around her neck with his picture displayed.  One thing I don’t understand yet is how Sydney Parker is her guardian until she reaches the age of majority. A twenty eight year old man, the guardian of a seventeen year old girl has not been explained yet. Obviously further plot development is needed. And I am beginning to have a theory about the said Miss Lambe, a very wealthy heiress with a fortune of £100,000. But ,no more about that now. Let’s wait and see.

Dr Fuchs/Fox discussing illnesses with Diana and Arthur Parker.

Episode 4 Wow! Half way through already. An episode of surprises and some shocking stuff.
Miss Georgiana Lambe receives a letter which lights up  her face and her eyes too. Soft and yearning, comes to mind. But more of that later.

The Parkers, Diana and Arthur, take  delight and are positively gleeful at their imagined sicknesses. They make a sport out of self diagnosis. Dr Fuchs or Fox, whichever you prefer, is being driven to despair.
 Old Stringer, still recovering from his leg injury tries to lecture his son, Young Stringer, about his ambitons to be an architect. Old Stringer thinks we  should all keep our place in this world and be happy with our  lot, while his son is ambitious and wants to progress and climb in the world.  Young Stringer has designed  a Chinese pagoda  to be the centre point of the new Sanditon. His father derides his ambition and, rather upsettingly,his son  burns his design on the fire. A sad moment.

Charlotte, who has been commissioned by Sydney Parker to keep watch over his ward, Miss Lambe, while he is away, arranges a picnic for Georgiana. Miss Lambe’s governess is against such a thing. How common and demeaning.to be out in the open where passersby could see her. Is this a sneaky reference to something in the first episode? No, it couldn’t possibly be. Charlotte is persuasive and is not averse to lying, announcing that Mr and Mrs Parker will attend the picnic too. The picnic is permitted to go ahead. At first only Charlotte and Georgiana are the sole participants in the said picnic when suddenly a Mr Otis Molyneaux appears . This is Georgiana's secret lover. Remember the locket in the last episode and the letter at the start of this one. Charlotte is compromised but tags along in grumpy mood.

Lord Babbington continues to persue Esther Denham by way of love letters even though she has aggressively spurned him. Letters are big in this episode,

Clara Brereton spies Lord Edward Denham and his sister having a moment that could be construed as having incestuous overtones as he strokes her kneck and tightens her stays tightly causing, apparently, pleasurable pain. Clara confronts Esther over this. The excuse is that they do not have the same biological parents. Brother and sister discuss their forbidden love. He seems less attached than she is. You can tell by the look on his face.Esther  is definitely  in love with her brother. You just need to look at her face. All sorts of trouble ahead can be envisaged. A very clever musical moment when Clara plays the harpsichord for the entertainment of Lady Denham. Esther is employed turning the pages of music. Clara, rather unkindly,  goads her by referring to that certain moment by referencing Italian musical terms,largemento, allegretto, mosso, allegro, crescendo. Passionate, stiring stuff, which in the end causes Esther to explode. Not literally of course. Oh Dear Me!!

 Lady Denham continues to help Lord Edward pursue wealthy brides. She has drawn up a list. It looks as though Esther, in the end, will have to plump for Lord Babbington.

Sydney returns just as Charlotte is giving a demeaning impersonation of him to Otis and Miss Lambe in the street. Rose Williams could take up a new career as an impersonator. She is very good. Sydney is far from amused at being ridiculed and totally incensed at the sight of Otis who he appears to know well and has previously banned from ever seeing Georgiana. Suggestions of Sydney having connections with Antigua and mention of slavery and slaves. Reference to Otis being a slave in the past and being made a freed man by somebody, unknown as of yet. Otis is hurt by Sydney’s attitude towards him and devastated that he may never see his beloved Georgiana again. Otis and Sydney have obviously had virile encounters before. The plot thickens and we wonder What? If? When? and How? and , perhaps, Why?

Charlotte, in her feisty combative mood loses her cool with Sydney and he berates her. Quite a verbal battle in public. Dislike, revulsion, misunderstanding, are a few words that come to mind.Their relationship takes a dive beyond repair, well, maybe.

On the other hand, Young Mr Stringer and Charlotte obviously like each other and respect each other and have a friendly stroll together on the beach. If Sydney is going to triumph by the end of episode 8 this can only be a red herring, surely.

Tom Parker is in trouble. Sydney has failed to acquire extra funding for his Sanditton project. Poor Tom Parker is sinking into a deep depression and he is also compounding his problems by lieing to his wife and making out that everything is fine. There will be tears, I can assure you.

Definitely NO male nudity in this one. You can only take a,”dick joke,” so far because after a while it is bound  to wilt. The joke I mean.

Actually, and I am being truthful , this could all make a great novel. Just not a Jane Austen novel. Bring on episode 5.

Rita Watts, manages,
"All Things Jane Austen Group." She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and will be posting articles about the eight part series, SANDITON:  

Rita, has over 47,000 followers.