Sally Wainwright, who wrote TV hits Happy Valley and Last Tango In Halifax, has slammed period shows for projecting a ‘very sanitised, 21st-century television view of history’.bronteblog
Wainwright made the comments while discussing her new BBC film To Walk Invisible, about the Bronte siblings — Charlotte, Emily, Anne and brother Branwell — and their clergyman father Patrick, who is played by Jonathan Pryce.
I noted that the marvellously acted movie, which will be shown on BBC1 later this winter, has a remarkable, gritty quality to it.
‘Well, I really didn’t want to create a Sunday evening chocolate box thing,’ she said. ‘We have a slightly manicured view of what the past was like.
‘Often history is about wealthy rich people — and about men. We get so many costume dramas, which are very popular and people love them.
‘But they’ve all got very white teeth! They’re all immaculate,’ she complained of the period programmes on both the BBC and ITV.
‘It’s a very sanitised, 21st- century television view of history. When I watch certain period dramas, I often feel it wouldn’t be weird if someone whipped out a mobile phone. It wouldn’t look out of place, because everything is so clean and slick and polished — and healthy and hygienic.
‘I don’t want people to feel like that,’ she added.
Sally Wainwright, a daughter of Yorkshire — raised in Sowerby Bridge ten miles from Haworth, home of the Brontes — said that Charlotte and Emily both had poor teeth
Wainwright, a daughter of Yorkshire — raised in Sowerby Bridge ten miles from Haworth, home of the Brontes — said that Charlotte and Emily both had poor teeth.
The portrait that Wainwright presents in her film, which she also directed, certainly feels authentic. I was struck by how the actors captured the sense of a proper family: one who argued, and swore at each other — yes, even in the 1840s.
Wainwright established a kind of Bronte boot camp at a rented house on the moors at Haworth, where cast members Finn Atkins (Charlotte), Chloe Pirrie (Emily), Charlie Murphy (Anne) and Adam Nagaitis as Branwell did Bronte things for a week.
‘I wanted them together, so they’d feel like a family,’ she explained.
They were shown around the Bronte Parsonage Museum by principal curator Ann Dinsdale; and one evening they had dinner with Juliet Barker, who wrote a biography of the Brontes in 1995.
‘And somebody came and told them how to write with ink. We had a whole afternoon of getting our fingers covered in ink,’ Wainwright recalled gleefully.
‘By the end of the week they were so bonded.’
The film’s focus is about how well Branwell bonded with alcohol and opium — and how his sisters had to tip-toe around him for much of the time, ‘probably half-loving and half-hating him’.
But somehow, the sisters managed to produce great works of literature, including Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights; while Branwell, who had undeniable talent, produced nothing and has, Wainwright said, become famous ‘for failing’. (Baz Bamigboye)