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Burton And Taylor (BBC-4 2013, Helena Bonham Carter, Dominic West)

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September 1982. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor hold a press conference to announce that they are to appear together in Private Lives.

Flashback to earlier in the year, when Richard visits London to appear at a charity poetry reading of Dylan Thomas’s work. While he is in London, Richard also attends Elizabeth’s 50th birthday party and visits Elizabeth, where she tells him that she is thinking of putting on another play after the success of The Little Foxes.

It is March 1983 and rehearsals for Private Lives begin. The rehearsals do not start well, as Elizabeth is often late and has not learned her lines. Richard suspects that Elizabeth is drinking and this leads him to consider his own problems, however, as rehearsals progress, Elizabeth does learn her lines and the rehearsals improve.

The play opens and the atmosphere around the theatre is chaotic. The audience crowd outside to see Elizabeth and she is often late. Many of the reviews are bad, but the audience respond enthusiastically as they pick up on what they imagine to be the parallels with Richard and Elizabeth’s own situation. This gives the performance an extra layer of meaning that brings discomfort and anger to Richard who is left wondering if they should end the run early…

production details
UK / BBC-4 / 1×90 minute episode / Broadcast Monday 22 July 2013 at 9.00pm

Director: Richard Laxton
Script: William Ivory,

cast
Dominic West as Richard Burton
Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor
Lenora Crichlow as Chen Sam
Stanley Townsend as Milton Katselas
Isabella Brazier-Jones as Maria Burton
William Hope as John Cullum
Greg Hicks as Zev Bufman
Trevor White as Journalist
Lucille Sharp as Liza Todd Burton
Sarah Hadland as Kathryn Walker