Fans of Eighties cult 1980s UK TV series The Beiderbecke Affair will know immediately what’s going on here. This ostensible “let’s put the band back together” drama is really just another opportunity for Alan Plater to resurrect the male/female comedy double act he brought to perfection back then with James Bolam and Barbara Flynn. Judi Dench and Ian Holm play the duelling duo this time out, she being the youngest member of a wartime “all-women” swing outfit, he being the drummer who had to cross-dress to keep the fiction alive. Sly old Plater also gets to indulge two other big passions. First, music of a jazzy, swingy sort – Basie and Ellington figure prominently. Second, slaughtering a sacred cow. Here he’s engaging with the boomer notion that sex began in 1963. Look, he says, forget The Beatles, Chuck Berry etc, the sexual big bang that rock’n’roll supposedly delivered actually happened in Britain during the second world war – when the national crisis trumped petty morality, the “hell, we could all be dead tomorrow” attitude wrote the licence and the blackout supplied the opportunity. It was, according to Plater’s screenplay, a sex and booze frenzy. Further joys of this bijou TV movie include getting to see actors doing things they aren’t associated with – Olympia Dukakis playing a trumpet. And Leslie Caron (yes, An American in Paris Leslie Caron) playing the bass. Grandma will love it, but broad church entertainment is what Plater’s all about, so there’s a good chance that the grandkids might too.
© Steve Morrissey 2013