The hall is made to seem longer by repetition of the decorative elements - kilims, Swedish chests of drawers, Karl Johan chairs covered with kilim, and a large collection of engravings from William Cavendish’s 17th-century book on horsemanship.
The French Touch: Decoration and Design in the Most Beautiful Homes in France, 1988
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I’ve wanted to see Wolcott for a while and here it is!
Starring George Harris (probably best known for playing Kingsley Shacklebolt in the Harry Potter franchise), this 1981 miniseries was the first UK TV drama with a black lead. Intended as a pilot for a 13-part series, Wolcott was never renewed as Central TV thought the premise of the show (black cop confronts racism deeply entrenched in the force) too much of a political hot potato after the Brixton, Dalston and Toxteth riots that took place within a few months of the show airing. A skeleton in ITV’s closet, Wolcott was never repeated and was only released on DVD a few years ago.
George Harris gives an intense performance as Wolcott, a very nuanced delivery of a flawed, complex lead. Who else is in it? There are some interesting cameos. A very young Rik Mayall plays a racist policeman, Alexei Sayle plays a hawker of a Socialist Worker type paper and Keith Allen plays a National Front thug. In the supporting roles, Hugh Quarshie is memorable as Wolcott’s childhood friend, now a youth worker who pricks his conscience about how the police treat the local kids. Warren Clarke and Chris Ellison both chew the scenery as an old school East End gang boss and a bent copper. In many ways it’s a very brash, sensationalist, pulpy show. The dialogue has dated very badly in places and it’s never going to pass the Bechdel test. The violence and frequent racial slurs would never be allowed on TV today, but at the same time Wolcott is very ahead of its time, with morally ambiguous characters on both sides of the law and in black and white communities. The language is hard to take at times but the show takes a hard and unflinching look at institutional racism that modern TV usually shies away from.
The whole production was shot on 35mm film and the transfer looks great. The production values are very high with lots of atmospheric location shooting in Hackney and Dalston (amazing shots of Wolcott patrolling brutalist walkways!), very 80s interiors and Wolcott’s dapper Burberry fits. Cinematography is by the great Roger Deakins who went on to give the Coen bothers’ films their unique look and you can definitely see his visual style developing with lots of great use of colour and shadow. It’s a very pacey and slick show for the era and the casting of Christine Lahti as an American reporter in London suggests the producers had an eye on selling it to the US. I wonder if it ever aired there? The ending was clearly meant to be a cliffhanger, leaving the viewer wondering where the show would have gone. Wolcott is worth watching for Harris’s magnetic performance and the stunning visuals.
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