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Performance: Absolute Hell (BBC-2 1991, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy)

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Black Comedy Absolute Hell was set in a Soho drinking club in a bomb-devestated London in the weeks leading up to the 1945 general election.

Shot on video as part of the BBC’s excellent Performance strand there is a nice little sepia opening leading into colour with Judi Dench supremely blowsy as club owner Christine but the real honours go to Bill Nighy (yet again) as a novelist heavily in debt and having trouble with his boyfriend.

Absolute Hell grew out of Ackland’s 1952 play The Pink Room (also known as The Escapists) which was a major flop at the time, Ackland himself felt it was too watered down and in the 1980’s reworked it, retitled it and turned it into a real gem. Honest, funny and highly entertaining.

production details
UK / BBC-2 / 1×120 minute episode / Broadcast 5 October 1991

Play: Rodney Ackland / Script Editor: Michael Hastings / Music: Jason Osborn / Choreography: Eleanor Fazan / Production Design: Michael Young / Costumes: Judy Pepperdine / Producer: Simon Curtis / Director: Anthony Page

cast
JUDI DENCH as Christine Foskett
FRANCESCA ANNIS as Elizabeth Collier
ANTHONY CALF as Douglas Eden
MOYRA FRASER as Lettice Willis
CHARLES GRAY as Maurice Hussey
BETTY MARSDEN as R.B. Monody
SUSANNAH MORLEY as Fifi
BILL NIGHY as Hugh Marriner
NATHANIEL PARKER as Sam Mitchum
RONALD PICKUP as Siegfried Shrager
PIP TORRENS as Nigel Child
RAY WINSTONE as P.C. Molson
SUSAN PORRETT as Doris
PAUL BIRCHARD as Butch
SYLVIA BARTER as Julia Shillitoe
EILEEN PAGE as Mrs Marriner
GREGORY FLOY as Michael Crowley
WILLIAM OSBORNE as Cyril Clatworthy
SUSAN BROWN as Bill
SHEELAGH FRASER as Madge
BARBARA HICKS as Mrs Pratt
CORDELIA ROCHE, GARY FAIRHALL, MARK GILLIS as Club Members

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