Sunday, 26 January 2014

A Civil Arrangement (2012)

I'm a great admirer of Alison Steadman so the prospect of her performing a 30 minute monologue for A Civil Arrangement, a made for TV short film was always going to be a winner for me.

Steadman plays Isobel, a mother who we meet in the first scene six weeks ahead of her daughter Kelly's civil partnership ceremony - an event she has accepted,helped largely by her liking for Janice, Kelly's intended, but her husband has not; he is said to baulk at the idea of walking his only child down the aisle to 'I Kissed A Girl' for example.

Of course, as this is a monologue, we do not really see or hear the views of the others; they are merely supporting artistes who largely leave a scene as it begins or 'rhubarb' in the background. Colin Hough's chatty script places the viewer in the position of confidant for Steadman's Isobel as each scene places us closer and closer to the big day. As such it is pure Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, with a dash of Victoria Wood thrown in for good measure; "I dangled Acker Bilk's canon, but she wasn't biting" Isobel remarks following the aisle music row.

It could be argued that, on the periphery, Hough deals with the cliched stereotypical view of lesbianism; Isobel remarks she should have seen the signs when, growing up, Kelly had the complete collection of Haynes manuals. Many boys would come calling, she remarks, but she later realised they only wanted help with an oil change. Meanwhile the older Janice is depicted as a leathers wearing motorcyclist who works at B+Q garden centre and has hands like shovels, along with her kind face. But I guess it is because they are on the periphery that a certain 'larger than lifeness' is required. The film belongs to the script and Steadman after all, and they are our only guide and point of reference.

It's an enjoyable thirty minutes if a largely predictable one. You can see where the plot is going from the first couple of scenes for example. But there's enough dry Northern whimsy in the script and enough of an acting masterclass from Steadman to keep you entertained, and the currency of the subject matter is still extremely relevant and contemporary enough to interest.

The film is available, in full, on several video sites such as Dailymotion. 

PS; like the 'poster' at the top of the page? I made that myself. There was sod all on Google images for the film!

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