July 27, 2015

“Bloomsbury bonkbuster” to air on BBC2


The cast of Life in Squares, a new BBC2 drama. Photograph: Robert Viglasky/BBC/Ecosse Films

Robert Viglasky/BBC/Ecosse Films

“The Bloomsbury bonkbuster! Six sex scenes in just one episode . . . is this the raunchiest TV show ever?” The Daily Mail wants to know!

On Monday, BBC2 premiers “Life in Squares,” a 3-part series about the famed Bloomsbury Group–the collection of bohemian artists and intellectuals that orbited around sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell during the first half of the twentieth century and included Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant, John Maynard Keynes, and T. S. Eliot, among others.

The group is, if not “best” then at least “often,” remembered for their “amorous experiments” and it seems the new series lives up to the reputation.

For The Independent, Holly Williams writes: “This drama might not be quite as sexually frank as GIRLS, but it’s getting there: the focus is unabashedly on the personal drama behind the group’s artistry, the intertwined relationships and near-incestuous shagging.” In the opening minutes of the first episode, “two corsets are ripped off–and summarily chucked out of a window with a cry of ‘freedom!’”

Darren Clarke, who oversees tours at Charleston, the home once shared by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is making plans accordingly. While Charleston has typically seen about 20,000 visitors a year since it opened to the public in 1986, they’re stepping up their tours to one every 15 minutes, given the new interest the series is bound to inspire. “People on our tours are often surprised the beds are not bigger,” he said.

Years ago, when the producers approached Vanessa Bell’s granddaughter Virginia Nicholson about the series, she was wary: “the idea of the Bloomsbury Group gets a mixed response and my slight concern is that the drama will play into a perception that they were self-indulgent, bed-hopping poseurs, whereas in fact they were a group of people who between them changed the cultural face of Britain,” she told The Guardian.

There’s no US broadcaster lined up (yet), but some of the corset-ripping can be peeped in the trailer, below.

Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.