Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Eve Best, Phoebe Fox, Catherine McCormack, Lydia Leonard, Jack Davenport, Rupert Penry-Jones, James Norton, Ed Birch, Christian Brassington, Lucy Boynton, Andrew Havill, Sam Hoare, Eleanor Bron, James Clay, Deborah Findlay, Ron Heaps, Guy Henry, Edmund Kingsley, Anton Lesser, James Northcote, Emily Bruni, Edmund Digby-Jones, Guy Henry, Finn Jones, Adam Palsson, Simon Thomas, Elliot Cowan, Rosie Ede, Jenny Howe, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Marianne Oldham, Simon Thomas, Al Weaver.
The life of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell has been so well documented, so well adorned in the eyes of those that take up such causes as the ideal of their generation, that sometimes we forget who they really were, not the saints of their arts but as real women, as women to whom nothing but truth was ever considered; even if it meant burying it in the sand for a while.
In the B.B.C. three part series Life In Squares, the life of these two exceptional women is celebrated and given a new fresh face, the truth of their lives and the people who were with them and without leading down the path too dramatically of the struggles that blighted Virginia Woolf’s life and her many loves.
As should be expected it is the women in Life In Squares who shine brightest, who capture the sentiment thrust upon them in post Victorian society and aim to prove their worth in amongst the rubble left to them by other’s destruction. In Eve Best and Phoebe Fox as Vanessa Bell and the superb Lydia Leonard and Catherine McCormack as Virginia Woolf, the life behind art came steadily out. To capture these sisters without descending into mawkish sensitivity takes great courage, for it is too easy at times for any actor to portray them as anything but outstandingly creative forces of their age, rather than placing them as the heroic women of their time who fought against many odds to have the life they pleased.
That’s not to say that the male parts in the three part series were of sideline importance, nobody should ever place that dreadful mantle on any of the Bloomsbury set but in James Norton and Rupert Penry-Jones as the artist Duncan Grant, a light on the period from the left hand side of marriage as Virginia Woolf once put it, was handled with extreme care and detail.
One of the very gentlest of dramas that the B.B.C. has perhaps had the privilege to put on but nonetheless one of most important, one that got to grips with the very essence of the life felt by Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.
Ian D. Hall