Tipping The Velvet (2002) – a television review

I’m having a rather odd day. I was hoping to get work done, but I’ve been exhausted all day, and distracted by some light wikipedia spelunking to learn more about the TV show we watched last night. We ended up watching the 2002 BBC serial, Tipping The Velvet, which turned out to be a very engrossing and not-slightly racy story indeed. At the heart of the plot are two women, Nan, who is discovering her latent lesbian, transvestite side while first watching and then dressing Kitty, a professional ‘masher’ (male impersonator) who finds herself reluctantly falling in love with her admirer.

After much preamble, they have a rather rollicking, steamy love affair, but it ends badly for both, as Kitty jilts Nan for their manager, and Nan falls apart. She winds up ‘renting’ in the back alleys for men who mistake her for a boy, and eventually finds herself in the service of a rich lesbian. That affair also ends badly, and Nan finally seeks out Florence, a young woman she met before falling in with her rich benefactress.

Determined not to lose her again, Nan ingratiates herself on her new friends, and in the end finds herself in a loving and supportive relationship that allows her to put her life back together. Eventually, she meets Kitty again, who wants her back, and she has to choose between her first love and her new love, and in the end… well, that would spoil it, wouldn’t it?

The actresses,  Rachael Stirling, Keeley Hawes, Anna Chancellor and Johdi May, all straight (or ever-so-slightly bisexual) actresses, nevertheless gave powerful, nuanced, utterly convincing performances as lesbian women in love. The sexuality was strong, but the romance was palpable as well. You never get the icky feeling you’re just watching some protracted softcore porn flick. It actually feels like merely a very frank, erotic love story in three acts, where all of the principle lovers are female.

The point is, it was a great story, and I truly wish I’d read the novel first, but the series was pretty wild in its own right. Even my wife, a staunch and determinedly straight woman, said the sexuality between the actresses was ‘hawt’. Not sure if that sort of thing is your cup of tea, but I have dabbled in these sorts of themes in my own writing, so I’m comfortable with the subject matter, and now plan to go read the original novel, along with a few others the author, Sarah Waters, wrote.

And thus concludes my mini review. Time to check the lasagne, and go photograph Derrick’s new drum kit.


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