tue 07/07/2020

Versailles, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Versailles, BBC Two

Versailles, BBC Two

Sex, scandal and lots of dressing up in historical Euro-romp

George Blagden as Louis XIV: 'all the charisma of a trainee accountant'

In the middle of the last century the worst thing that could be said about a working-class housewife was that she had “run off with a black man”. Well, the Queen of France, no better than she ought to be, has had it off with a black man (in fact her pet dwarf). Last week’s opening episode of Versailles ended with Louis XIV (George Blagden) setting eyes on the resulting black baby for the first time.

The second episode immediately picks up the baby and runs with it – all the way to a blind wet nurse from whose breast the sinister henchman Marchal (Tygh Runyan) plucks it before attempting to drown it in a water butt. Of course, it is saved – by the timely intervention of Bontemps (Stuart Bowman), already mourning the poxy death of his own son. The British public may be able to stomach nudity and polymorphous perversity, but the on-screen murder of a suckling babe would be way beyond the pale. 

Apart from a brief scene of cunning linguistics (Louis drinking outside the box of his mistress; The twat? C’est moi!), there is little to scare the horses here. Even the scene in which the king’s droopy-nosed brother Philippe (Alexander Vlahos – Mordred in Merlin) goes shopping in female garb with his male lover only becomes shocking when it explodes into violence. The sooner Philippe is sent to prove his masculinity in the killing fields of the Spanish Netherlands the better. In the meantime he bitterly resents his brother’s interference in his affairs – “You do not choose what I wear or who I fuck!” – and, as if this were less important, the fact he is sleeping with his wife: “Well, someone has to!” ripostes the Sun King (pictured above). Touché!

Yes, it is a pantomime – a Euro-pudding that follows the same recipe as The Musketeers – but taken on its own low terms it is entertaining enough. Counter-intuitively, the cast of mainly unknowns does nothing to enhance the production’s authenticity. Who knew there were so many Scots in France? More care has been applied to the hair extensions and stunning locations than the performances. As for the magnificent erection of the palace of Versailles, it has yet to even start rising.

VersaillesIn real life George Blagden is a sex bomb. Here, with his weedy 'tache and obsession with tax, he has all the charisma of a trainee accountant. As Marie-Thérese, his errant queen, Elisa Lasowski (pictured right) has little to do but writhe in a kingsize that threatens to become her deathbed. She is saved by Claudine (Lizzie Brocheré), the forward-thinking daughter of the royal doctor, who makes a more than favourable impression on the cuckolded Louis.

It is tempting to see the show as a reflection of itself. The hall of mirrors is yet to be built, but the plotting nobles reflect the actors who portray them – everyone is striving to cover themselves in glory. The mot juste here is oeillade: a sideways look, an ogle. Versailles is a seductive series of meaningful/meaningless glances.

It follows the same Euro-pudding recipe as 'The Musketeers', but it's entertaining enough


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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