Monday, 14 November 2016

537 A Kind of Loving

First  viewed : 4  April  1982

He's  fallen  out  of  fashion  now  but  around  this  time  Stan  Barstow's  A Kind  of  Loving  was   a set  text  in  schools  across  Britain, almost  guaranteeing  this  ten-part  serialisation  a  decent audience. Barstow  was  one  of  the  wave  of  working  class  novelists  that  lit  up  the  literary scene  in  the immediate   post-war  decades  although  I  expect  the  book's  value  as  a  cautionary tale  about  the  dangers  of  pre-marital  sex  at  least  partially  accounts  for  its  popularity  with schools.

Vic  Brown   is  a  20  year  old , slightly  naive,  male  from  a  stable  working  class  family  in  the  fictional  Lancastrian  town  of  Cressley  in  the  late  fifties. He  works  as  a  trainee  draftsman  in  an  office  full  of  similar  peers,  all  with  vague  ideas  of  bettering  themselves. What  derails  Vic's   plans  is  a  shotgun  marriage  to  lower  middle  class  Ingrid  who  he  fancies  but  doesn't  really  love. To  make  matters  worse  her  mother  hates  his  guts.

The  ITV  dramatization  went  beyond  the  very  popular  1962   film  version  starring Alan  Bates  by  incorporating  the  events   in   Barstow's  two  subsequent  novels   about  Vic  The  Watchers  On  The  Shore  and  The  Right  True  End,  which  take  his  story  into  the  early  seventies. This  presented  a  problem  with  the  casting  as  craggy  Clive  Wood,  playing  Vic,  looked  older  than   his  28  years   and  was  completely  unconvincing  as  a  man  barely  out  of  his  teens  in  the  early  episodes.

The  series  is  probably  chiefly  remembered  as  the  launching  pad  for  Joanne  Whalley's  career. The  dark-eyed  actress  from  Salford  wasn't  exactly  a  newcomer,  having  a  number  of  credits  as  a  child  actress  in  the  seventies  including  brief  runs  in  both   Coronation  Street  and  Emmerdale  Farm. With  a  couple  of  scenes  in  which  she  is  briefly  topless, Joanne  is  probably  a  bit  chubbier  than  she  would  have  liked  but  Ingrid  was  her  breakthrough  role  and  she  was  soon  able  to  kick  her  parallel  career  as  lead  singer  of  dud  girl  group  Cindy  and  the  Saffrons   into  touch.

Clare  Kelly  also  made  an  impression  as  the  mother-in-law  from  hell, following  in  the  formidable  footsteps  of  Thora  Hird  from  the  film  version. Mrs  Rothwell  gives  us  a  clue  as  to  why  the  novel  has  fallen  from  grace.  Neither  her  nor  Ingrid  are  very  favourably  presented  in  a  story  told  exclusively  from  a  male  point  of  view . Both  the  couple's  dads  are  presented  as  sound,  sensible  fellows  who  keep  their  semi-hysterical  spouses  in  check .  Such  a  patriarchy  may  have  been  quite  an  accurate  portrayal  of  the  society  from  which  Barstow  sprang  but  it  jars  with  modern  sensibilities.

That   sort  of   society  was  dying  on  its  feet  by  1982. The  local  Methodist  chapel  was  now  either  a  discount  warehouse  or  a  mosque   and  there  was  no  pressure  at  all  on  a  pregnant  girl  to  get   married  so  A  Kind  of  Loving  was  a  quaint  period  drama . It's  quite  good  but  murderously  slow  to  get  going.

While  Whalley  went  off  to  Hollywood, Wood  has  stayed  a  reliable  but  unstarry  actor  on  stage  and  screen in  the  UK,  with  recurring  roles  in  The  Bill  and  London's  Burning  the  next  best  thing  to  this. Mind  you  a  bloke  who's  been  to  bed  with   both   Joanne  Whalley  and  Susan  Penhaligon  ( who  appears  later in  the  series  as  his  mistress,  Donna )  can't  really  complain  about  his  luck  not  holding .


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