Sex Drama On Homefront
11 February 1993
Copyright of John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd
Sunday. The Camomile Lawn, Channel 2, 9.30pm
Delicacy and restraint are not the strong points of The Camomile Lawn.
As elegant as its title sounds, and as beautiful as this wartime drama looks (the Brits' endless love for recreating their past on the tube is astonishing), its main theme is sex. It is also about growth, commitment, compromise, loss and love - but mainly sex.
Set in Cornwall and London, the drama (based on the book by Mary Wesley) follows the closely knit and often tense relations between the joyous Polly (Tara Fitzgerald, from the movie Hear My Song), her brother Walter (Ben Walden), the young, impressionable Sophy (Rebecca Hall), the brash, sex-obsessed Oliver (Toby Stephens) and the extraordinarily beautiful Calypso (Jennifer Ehle), the subject of Oliver's attentions and whose breasts have a prominent role in the series.
Looking over the clan is Aunt Helena (Felicity Kendal) and Uncle Richard (Paul Eddington). Their lives also involve some Jewish friends who initially are treated as illegal aliens. Uncle Richard uses his political connections to free them, something which benefits not only them but Aunt Helena's lust.
If Kendal was wanting to escape the sweet stigma of doing The Good Life and all those those ads for margarine (sorry, can't remember the brand - can you?) she does it here. Like Calypso, her sexuality prompts her to do things that are less than noble.
Paul Eddington, obviously keen to shed his persona from Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, does. As crusty, ageing Uncle Richard, he walks (or rather limps) through the series, voicing his disbelief at things with the phrase "I ask you" and going on about his artificial leg, which he lost, as he puts it, "in the first show".
It's not gripping drama but it is a quality attention-grabber with some surprisingly sharp left turns and some very frank dialogue. Those expecting Upstairs, Downstairs be warned.