A scandalous affair unfolds in 'The Trial of Christine Keeler'

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Feb 10, 2020

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OMG, have you been watching "The Trial of Christine Keeler"?

I’ve been addicted to the drama since it aired on BBC First, three weeks ago. The casting is ingenious. Every actor plays their part with commendable dexterity. And the writing is just incredible. What can I say, I’m a sucker for masterfully-penned lines, especially those that border on witty and sarky.

Of course, Sophie Cookson’s blessed with some real gems as the lead in the six-part series. Cast as Christine Keeler, the aspirant model and showgirl finds herself entangled in a sex scandal with two prominent married men: John Profumo (Ben Miles), a Conservative MP and Secretary of State for War, as well as Yevgeny Ivanov (Visar Vishka), a Soviet naval attaché.

Her tumultuous relationships with exes, Johnny Edgecombe (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and Lucky Gordon (Anthony Welsh), played an unwitting hand in exposing the Profumo Affair, which is documented in Britain’s historical analogues.

Cookson in a scene with Ben Miles as John Profumo, a Conservative MP and Secretary of State for War. Picture: Courtesy of BBC.

Thrust into the spotlight, an observant newshound from the Mirror newspapers approaches Keeler to tell her story. At first, she’s oblivious
to the value of the information she has, having been privy to many clandestine conversations during her pillow talk moments; and, thanks to
her close relationship with Stephen Ward (played by James Norton), an osteopath who is very deeply entrenched in the world of politics.

He knows all the key players and has forged close relationships with many of them by throwing adult parties and arranging “dates” for his affiliates. In other words, he’s a sort of pimp albeit a nice one to Keeler and his other impressionable recruit, Mandy Rice- Davies (Ellie Bamber). His pet name for them both is, “Little baby”.

I already commented on the script. Every episode opens with a poignant harsh truth by Keeler.

In episode two, she noted: “The men in my life taught me many things, though you could say some things in life don’t need to be taught. When I met John Profumo, we gave in to the most natural instinct there is, the love of a powerful middle aged man for a penniless teenage girl. Is
that a crime?”

It’s rather telling.

When Ward tries to warn his political “friends” of the possible threat, they don’t take it too seriously until the papers are about to run an exposé. Then several cages start rattling, including that of Valerie Hobson (Emilia Fox), the actress wife of Profumo.

When Christine left her small town for a bustling city life in London, she was expecting fame, fortune and perhaps a Prince Charming. It just so happened that she got famous for all the wrong reasons. And her Prince Charmings turned out to be vengeful frogs.

Towards the end of the episode, Keeler added: “Stephen may have been a puppet master but he wasn’t pulling the strings anymore, not mine
anyway, and the people who were, were sent to destroy us all.”

Intrigued much, now? This wonderfully enacted drama, underpinned by a scandalous true-life story, is riveting as it charts the downfall of a political bigwig.

The Trial of Christine Keeler airs on BBC First (DStv channel 119) on Thursdays at 8pm. 

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