OK – I know the image may not remind you of any known White Shirt opera but it does portray a strikingly handsome woman in period clothing which includes a beautifully tailored white shirt, a cracking pair of boots and bonus free-range deer.
This is the magnificent Janet McTeer
playing Vita Sackville-West in “Portrait of a Marriage” TV series
Recently I was looking up something on YouTube and got distracted – you do, don’t you? One thing lead to another and I discovered that the whole of the 1990 BBC series of “Portrait of a Marriage” is there – admittedly in 25 chunks, but better than nothing. I remember seeing the series when it was originally broadcast ( was it really 1990?? ) and it made a huge impression on me.The quality acting and beautifully crafted story-line together with the historic background of Knole House and Sissinghurst made riveting watching.
Firstly I went to buy the book ( written by Vita and Harold’s son Nigel Nicholson ) and then I determined to visit Sissinghurst at the first opportunity. A few years later that was accomplished and it was a fabulous visit. Being able to stand in the room where Vita wrote, still with the furnishings and accoutrements she knew, looking down on the garden which she created, was a great privilege.
So when I discovered the TV programme on YouTube I was able to watch whilst linking all these impressions and memories together. Very satisfying.
The programme concentrates on the relationship between Vita and Violet Keppel/Trefusis and the impact that had on both their marriages, families and reputations. Not exactly ground-breaking but nevertheless quite rare on British TV at that time.There is an overriding sense of sorrow for Harold and their two sons and a continuing sense of doom over the future of the two women.
“She was a rebel, she was Julian [Vita’s alter ego], and though she did not know it, she fought for more than Violet. She fought for the right to love, men and women, rejecting the conventions that marriage demands exclusive love, andthat women should love only men, and men only women. For this she was prepared to give up everything. Yes, she may have been mad, as she later said, but it was a magnificent folly. She may have been cruel, but it was a cruelty on a heroic scale. How can I despise the violence of such passion?” Nigel Nicholson.
Portrait of a Marriage on YouTube - PLAYLIST
Have a lovely White Shirt Weekend!