TV review: The Scandalous Lady W, BBC Two
Natalie Dormer stars in this very modern period drama
After The Tudors and Game of Thrones it's almost as if Natalie Dormer exists in another era, adding yet another period drama to her CV with the BBC's new feature length special The Scandalous Lady W. A fascinating true story that shocked the Georgian upper classes (adapted by David Eldridge from Hallie Rubenhold’s book Lady Worsley’s Whim).
Dormer takes the title role as Lady Seymour Worsley (née Fleming) 'the most eligible, wealthiest heiress in the land' who vows to marry for love rather than social standing. Her husband Richard (Shaun Evans) however has unusual sexual peccadillos. A voyeur who forces his wife to have sex with other men while he spies on them through the keyhole. His love morphing into controlling manipulation. He then has the temerity to cry foul when she runs off with dashing soldier Captain George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard).
Cutting back and forth between the beginning and end of Richard and Seymour's relationship, in particular focusing on the court case that followed. In many ways Lady W mirrors Dormer's role as Anne Boleyn in Tudors as her love and position in society come crashing down around her at great personal cost. This was a time when women were treated like property emphasising the double standard that still exists today when it comes to female sexuality.
As you'd expect from the Beeb there's a wonderful attention to period detail. Even with these historical trappings Eldridge's writing gives Lady W a fresh contemporary edge, the dialogue modernised to a degree, making it instantly more accessible and relevant. Dormer is a captivating lead, engaging, sympathetic but strong and erudite when required. The men are more one dimensional but this is Dormer's story, shining a light on the life of a woman at odds with the times, who refused to bow down and risked everything by standing up for her rights.
The Scandalous Lady W screens on BBC Two, Mon 17 Aug, 9pm.