mon 13/07/2020

Brief Encounters, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Brief Encounters, ITV

Brief Encounters, ITV

Penelope Wilton sells sex toys in the foundation myth of Ann Summers

Shtupperware party? Angela Griffin and Sophie Rundle in 'Brief Encounters'

Sex sells. That's the well-upholstered thinking behind Brief Encounters. A disparate group of northern women beat off (sorry) the recession by flogging marital aids at saucy Tupperware parties. Shtupperware, if you will. One of them's dear old Penelope Wilton. Goodness. Cousin Violet's eyebrows would perform a pole vault. 

You know where you are in this drama-by-numbers. Even the title is below the belt, shamelessly flashing its naughty smalls at David Lean's classic buttoned-up Forties romance. The plot is loosely based on Jacqueline Gold’s memoir about the birth of Ann Summers. That was called Good Vibrations, so the habit’s catching.

The setting is Yorkshire, where writers go to cheer on the sexually repressed giving it large (see also the considerably bigger buns of Calendar Girls). The decade is the 1980s, which doesn't seem very long ago to some of us but it's an article of faith of all period drama that no one was getting it half as much then as now. There were none of that there sexting in 1982, lad, and back then a Brazilian landing strip were summat Ronnie Biggs made his escape to. Suggestively shaped sex toys were mistaken for loofahs or, in this case, a hand-held food blender.

The blameless small town where we gather is heaving with plump Rotarians and young lads on the dole. Meanwhile their women are good for nowt but making babies and dinner. One of them is Steph (Sophie Rundle), a daily who does for Pauline (Wilton) – this was in the days before cleaning jobs were outsourced to the European Union. She and her new friend at the school gates, Nita (Angela Griffin), are somehow inveigled into making a buck as distributors of naff negligees and whopping vibrators to local womanhood. Because drama thrives on contrasts, Nita is much more up for it than Steph, and neither is as up for it as Dawn (Sharon Rooney), who is plus-sized and hot to trot. Steph, being too good to be true, shudders at the thought but, needing the money, eventually nails her courage to the sticky place and even enlists Dame Penelope (pictured above) to host the thing.

Where's this all going? Nowhere hugely riveting, in truth. Marriages are variously strained or strengthened. The characterisation is taken from the seaside postcards of Donald McGill, all slaps and tickles and how's your father, and it's been artificially inseminated by The Full Monty, where sex is the plucky entrepreneur's answer to Thatcherism. The actors do the writing proud. Walk down any high street and you know how the story ended.

The characterisation is taken from the seaside postcards of Donald McGill

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters