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 .