Saturday 30 April 2016

The Durrells | | ITV

The Durrells | ITV

The Durrells is a six-part ITV drama television series based on Gerald Durrell's three autobiographical books about his family's four years on Corfu 1935-1939, which began airing on 3 April 2016. The series is written by Simon Nye, directed by Steve Barron and Roger Goldby, produced by Christopher Hall and Executive Production is by Lee Morris and Sally Woodward Gentle.

The series begins in 1935, when Louisa Durrell suddenly announces that she and her four children will move from Bournemouth to the Greek island of Corfu. Her husband has died some years earlier and the family is experiencing financial problems. A Homeric battle ensues as the family adapts to life on the island which, despite a lack of electricity, is cheap and an earthly paradise.

The Durrells proves a rollicking delight for ITV
Series based on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy meets need for hit Sunday night drama to fill void left by Downton Abbey
Jane Martinson and John Plunkett
Friday 29 April 2016 17.50 BST

The old adage of never working with children and animals is being tested by ITV with its main Sunday night drama. But The Durrells, a fun mix of gorgeous locations, four badly behaved kidults and an odd menagerie of animals, is proving a success for the broadcaster which has been searching for a Sunday night hit since Downton Abbey came to an end in December.

Based on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy, the drama starring Keeley Hawes as the whimsical widow fleeing a prewar Britain for the sunny Mediterranean is attracting an average audience of 5.9 million viewers on a Sunday night, nearly 2 million more than the channel’s average.

The series has also been a boon for sales of the the naturalist’s books. Waterstones said sales of My Family and Other Animals, the first of the Corfu trilogy, had more than tripled, while sales of the trilogy had increased eight-fold.

Publisher Penguin Random House said it had seen an “incredible uplift” across all three editions of My Family and Other Animals.

“In our experience, successful book adaptations for TV and cinema often lead to a renewed interest in the original book,” said Richard Humphreys, Waterstones’ non-fiction buyer. “It is an amazing result and a testament to the brilliance and longevity of Durrell’s writing.”

Shown in a pre-watershed slot of 8pm, the combination of romance and rollicking children has won over entire families. The Durrells is the highest rated new drama series on ITV since Cilla in 2014 and was recommissioned after just two episodes.

Sally Woodward Gentle, the executive producer, said the idea of turning Durrell’s three books into a long-running series came about because of the commercial broadcaster’s demand for a family-friendly hit on the biggest night of the week.

“We wanted sunshine and escapism, and not anything too slight or sweet or patronising,” she said. “We don’t want to be too sickly sweet about it. Anything that feels a bit cute we will try to undercut it. At the same time, it has to be something that’s incredibly pleasurable and a joy to watch.”

The appeal was ageless, she said, because the show contained “quite naughty children who are allowed to run wild and lots of animals. For the adults, the wit and characters are amazing”.

Conceived as a long-running series, minor characters such as Sven and the part-time prisoner Costi are made much larger while the central character of Louise is given a possibly more modern spin. “She’s a single parent, feisty and bolshie, and does this extremely brave thing by taking the children off to Corfu,” said Woodward Gentle.

There have been comparisons to the the Larkin family in the early 1990s hit Darling Buds of May, which Woodward Gentle welcomes. “I loved it,” she said. “It was slightly naughty and all about how lush nature is.”

Critics, often less enamoured of ITV drama than they are of BBC adaptations, have been generally positive, although there was also criticism of a plot twist dubbed the “gay switch scandal”.

Sven, who is gay in the book, becomes Louisa’s main love interest on ITV, prompting charges of “straightwashing”.

ITV would not be drawn on how the storyline between the two plays out, with the penultimate of six episodes to be broadcast this Sunday.

Woodward Gentle said the show was very loosely based on the original books, and Durrell’s widow, Lee, had been very supportive.

Neither the original memoirs nor the writings of Durrell’s older brother about the family’s time on Corfu was entirely accurate, Woodward Gentle said.. “Gerald and Lawrence Durrell didn’t tell the truth either … They didn’t let truth stand in the way of a good story.”

Written by Simon Nye, whose credits include Men Behaving Badly, the series hopes to stay true to the humour of the books.

They covered a four-year period before the onset of the second world war made the real-life Durrells return to the UK. With filming of the next series set to start this summer for the next series, Woodward Gentle said she would “love it to go on and on”.

Ratings war

The Durrells has helped to loosen the BBC’s grip on early Sunday evening viewing, which is traditionally dominated by Countryfile at 7pm, followed an hour later by Antiques Roadshow, both on BBC1.

Last Sunday, The Durrells had 5.5 million viewers from 8pm, just ahead of Antiques Roadshow with 5.3 million.

ITV’s previous attempts to find a hit pre-watershed drama on Sunday sank without trace. Jekyll and Hyde last year and Beowulf earlier this year were both dropped after ratings fell to 2 million viewers.

Among the other big Sunday night dramas, BBC1’s Undercover, with an overnight audience of 4 million viewers at 9pm, has not managed to repeat the success of The Night Manager, which gripped more than 6 million people in the same slot. But neither were in the league of the biggest Sunday night drama hit, BBC1’s Call The Midwife, which at its peak was watched by 10 million viewers.

Channel 4’s Indian Summers has been a casualty of the fierce Sunday night ratings war, with the drama about the birth of modern India axed after two series after its audience fell as low as 1 million.

Keeley Hawes as Louisa Durrell
Milo Parker as Gerry Durrell
Josh O'Connor as Larry Durrell
Daisy Waterstone as Margo Durrell
Callum Woodhouse as Leslie Durrell
Yorgos Karamihos as Dr. Theo Stephanides
Alexis Georgoulis as Spiros Hakaiopolous
James Cosmo as Captain Creech
Maximilian Befort as Max
Manolis Emmanouel as Sotos
Andrew Bicknell as Headmaster
Anna Savva as Lugaretza
Graham Seed as Mr Trevitt
Liz Watts as Nancy
Ben Hall as Donald
Hara-Joy Ermidi as Alexia
Yorgos Tryfonas as Market Trader
Nick Orestis Chaniotakis as Monk
Arsenis Grimmas as Guest House Manager
Spiros Kasfikis as Durrell's House Owner
Ulric von der Esch as Sven

 Gerald "Gerry" Malcolm Durrell, OBE (7 January 1925 – 30 January 1995) was a British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author and television presenter. He founded what are now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Durrell Wildlife Park on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1959, but is perhaps best remembered for writing a number of books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast. He was the youngest brother of novelist Lawrence Durrell.
Durrell was born in Jamshedpur, India on 7 January 1925. He was the fourth surviving and final child of Louisa Florence Dixie and Lawrence Samuel Durrell, both of whom were born in India of English and Irish descent. Durrell's father was a British engineer and, as was commonplace and befitting family status, the infant Durrell spent most of his time in the company of an ayah (nursemaid). Durrell reportedly recalled his first visit to a zoo in India and attributed his lifelong love of animals to that encounter.

The family moved to Britain after the death of his father in 1928 and settled in the Upper Norwood-Crystal Palace area of South London. Durrell was enrolled in Wickwood School, but frequently stayed at home feigning illness.

Mrs Durrell moved with her four younger children (Lawrence, Leslie, Margaret, nicknamed Margo, and Gerald) to the Greek island of Corfu in 1935. It was on Corfu where Durrell began to collect and keep the local fauna as his pets.

The family lived on Corfu until 1939. This interval was later the basis of the book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods, plus a few short stories like "My Donkey Sally". Durrell was home-schooled during this time by various family friends and private tutors, mostly friends of his eldest brother Lawrence (later a successful novelist).

Theodore Stephanides, Greek doctor, scientist, poet and philosopher and a friend of one of Durrell's tutors, became Durrell's greatest friend and mentor, and his ideas left a lasting impression on the young naturalist. Together, they examined Corfu fauna, which Durrell housed in everything from test tubes to bathtubs. Another major influence during these formative years, according to Durrell, was the writing of French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

VIDEO below / Museum Exhibition /// Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015

Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015 explores the history of men’s fashionable dress from the eighteenth century to the present and re-examines the all-too-frequent equation of “fashion” with “femininity.”

Beginning with the 18th century, the male aristocrat wore a three-piece suit conspicuous in make and style, and equally as lavish as the opulent dress of his female counterpart. The 19th-century “dandy” made famous a more refined brand of expensive elegance which became the hallmark of Savile Row. The mid-twentieth-century “mod” relished in the colorful and modern styles of Carnaby Street, and the 21st century man—in an ultra-chic “skinny suit” by day and a flowered tuxedo by night—redefines today’s concept of masculinity.

Drawing primarily from LACMA’s renowned collection, Reigning Men makes illuminating connections between history and high fashion. The exhibition traces cultural influences over the centuries, examines how elements of the uniform have profoundly shaped fashionable dress, and reveals how cinching and padding the body was, and is, not exclusive to women. The exhibition features 200 looks, and celebrates a rich history of restraint and resplendence in menswear.


Sunday 24 April 2016

Behind the scenes of ITV's documentary Our Queen at 90, in pictures

How the Queen's horses reveal more about her than her family: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS on last night's TV
PUBLISHED: 23:58 GMT, 27 March 2016

Her Majesty the Queen will never give an interview. She has come close, notably providing commentary to a TV documentary in 1992 about her reign, otherwise we are left with her annual Christmas broadcasts, the speeches and the rare glimpses of her in conversation with family and friends on film.
She has the most familiar voice in the world. Yet Elizabeth II has never sat in front of a camera, or even a radio mike, and answered questions.
The heir to the throne, Prince Charles, has done so on many occasions. He was still a novice at it in 1981, when he tied himself in knots sitting beside his shy fiancee as they talked to interviewer Anthony Carthew, when the Prince revealed he wasn’t sure what ‘love’ meant.
It’s horses that hold Her Majesty's dearest affection, and the scene in Our Queen at 90 that summed up her unaffected kindness and, at the same time, her regal charm was filmed at the Sandringham stables
It’s horses that hold Her Majesty's dearest affection, and the scene in Our Queen at 90 that summed up her unaffected kindness and, at the same time, her regal charm was filmed at the Sandringham stables
He’s more relaxed now. Our Queen At 90 (ITV) saw him joshing and raising an arch eyebrow as he chatted about his mother. Asked to define the highlights of her reign, he quipped: ‘She put up with all of us and that’s quite an achievement.’
Charles seemed so at ease as a talking-head that it’s possible to imagine him doing so-called ‘filler TV’, waffling about Britain’s favourite 50 sitcoms or wacky fashions of the Seventies.
The rest of the Royals were equally comfortable, though they were careful not to say anything that might be construed as a headline.
The Duchess of Cambridge confided that she’d been racked with nerves during her first Christmas at Sandringham. That’s not a surprise: any girl visiting her boyfriend’s folks will be apprehensive, and it really can’t help if his grandma is Queen of England.
She gave Her Majesty a jar of home-made chutney. Next morning, it was on the Queen’s breakfast table. That broke the ice.

The Duchess of Cambridge confided that she’d been racked with nerves during her first Christmas at Sandringham. That’s not a surprise: any girl visiting her boyfriend’s folks will be apprehensive, and it really can’t help if his grandma is Queen of England
Her husband’s insights were less telling: his granny was ‘someone who’s been there, done it, got the T-shirt’. If that’s how he usually talks, nobody will be rushing to finish the Christmas washing-up and get the telly on at 3pm when he’s King William V.
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex and wife of the Queen’s youngest son, seemed the least accustomed to the camera. Her tone of voice betrayed her when she described Balmoral as lovely, ‘apart from the midges’, the way you might say Hell was super, ‘apart from the flames’.
To have so many senior royals sounding forth was a great coup, but the real triumph of this film, celebrating the Queen not only as a monarch but also as a private person, was its glimpses of her off-duty. Few women of 89 could trot on a horse with such enthusiasm, though we overheard her protesting: ‘I’m rather a fairweather rider — I don’t like getting cold and wet!’
Her husband’s insights were less telling: his granny was ‘someone who’s been there, done it, got the T-shirt

The documentary was packed with expertly chosen clips from the archive, including one marvellous moment of the Queen as a girl, with her father and an alsatian pup that was frolicking with a giant panda cub. As pets go, that beats a hamster.
But it’s horses that hold her dearest affection, and the scene that summed up her unaffected kindness and, at the same time, her regal charm was filmed at the Sandringham stables. Her Majesty spoke of every animal as a friend, and knew its quirks. ‘This one’s a prima donna,’ she joked, pointing to a mare with a My Little Pony mane.
The Queen appears to be, quite simply, happy and glorious
At her elbow, a member of the Royal Household attended with a crisp paper bag of carrots. The Queen plucked one and offered it to La Prima Donna... who spat it out. Her Majesty laughed and looked down at the ground meaningfully: after a moment, the flunkey leapt to retrieve the carrot.
The treat was proffered again, and the horse spat it out once more. The Queen shrugged, as if to say ‘suit yourself’ and walked on. She doesn’t take nonsense from anyone, even cheeky mares. No wonder every one of her Prime Ministers, even Margaret Thatcher, has been rather in awe of her.
Her whole life has proved her dedication to duty. What this remarkable programme showed was the converse, her knack for taking nothing too seriously. The Queen appears to be, quite simply, happy and glorious.

Special Report: The Queen At 90

The Queens 90th Birthday A Service of Celebration for Commonwealth Day

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild

Walter Rothschild was born in London as the eldest son and heir of Nathan Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild, an immensely-wealthy financier of the international Rothschild financial dynasty and the first Jewish peer in England.

The eldest of three children, Walter was deemed to have delicate health and was educated at home. As a young man, he traveled in Europe, attending the university at Bonn for a year before entering Magdalene College at Cambridge. In 1889, leaving Cambridge after two years, he was required to go into the family banking business to study finance.

At the age of seven, he declared that he would run a zoological museum. As a child, he collected insects, butterflies, and other animals. Among his pets at the family home in Tring Park were kangaroos and exotic birds. As a boy, Rothschild was once dragged off his horse and assaulted by workmen while on a hunting ride near Tring, an experience that he personally attributed to Anti-Semitism.

At 21, he reluctantly went to work at the family bank, N M Rothschild & Sons in London. He worked there from 1889 to 1908. Нe evidently lacked any interest or ability in the financial profession, but it was not until 1908 that he was finally allowed to give it up. However, his parents established a zoological museum as a compensation, and footed the bill for expeditions all over the world to seek out animals.

Rothschild was 6' 3" tall, suffered from a speech impediment and was very shy, but he had his photograph taken riding on a giant tortoise, and drove a carriage harnessed to six zebras to Buckingham Palace to prove that zebras could be tamed.

Though he never married, Rothschild had two mistresses, one of whom bore him a daughter.

Rothschild studied zoology at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Meeting Albert Günther sparked his interest in the taxonomy of birds and butterflies.

Although Rothschild himself travelled and collected in Europe and North Africa for many years, his work and health concerns limited his range, and beginning while at Cambridge he employed others - explorers, professional collectors, and residents - to collect for him in remote and little-known parts of the world. He also hired taxidermists, a librarian, and, most importantly, professional scientists to work with him to curate and write up the resulting collections: Ernst Hartert, for birds, from 1892 until his retirement at the age of 70 in 1930; and Karl Jordan for entomology, from 1893 until Rothschild's death in 1937.

At its largest, Rothschild's collection included 300,000 bird skins, 200,000 birds' eggs, 2,250,000 butterflies, and 30,000 beetles, as well as thousands of specimens of mammals, reptiles, and fishes. They formed the largest zoological collection ever amassed by a private individual.

The Rothschild giraffe (Giraffa camelopardis rothschildi), a subspecies with five horns instead of two, was named after him. Another 153 insects, 58 birds, 17 mammals, three fish, three spiders, two reptiles, one millipede, and one worm also carry his name.

Rothschild opened his private museum in 1892. It housed one of the largest natural history collections in the world, and was open to the public. In 1932 he was forced to sell the vast majority of his bird collection to the American Museum of Natural History after being blackmailed by a former mistress. On his death in 1937, the museum and all its contents were given in his will to the British Museum (of which the Natural History Museum, London was then a part), the greatest accession which that institution has ever received. The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring is now a division of the Natural History Museum.

Rothschild was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Giessen in 1898, was elected a Trustee of the British Museum in 1899, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1911.

Walter Rothschild: The man, the museum and the menagerie
by Miriam Rothschild, Natural History Museum, UK, 2008. 432 pp. ISBN: 9780565092283 (pbk).
review by Nicholas Drayson

The first thing many people think of when they hear the name Rothschild is not museums but wealth, riches, great sacks of gold. The small bank started in Frankfurt by Mayer Amschel Bauer in the late eighteenth century (he changed his name to Rothschild after the 'red shield' that was the firm's logo) grew over the next hundred years to become the pre-eminent banking firm throughout Europe. His great-grandson Nathan Mayer Rothschild (known to family and friends as Natty) eventually took over the English branch of the firm to become one of the most influential men in Britain. He continued the family tradition of banking and philanthropy and in 1885 was created the first Baron Rothschild — so becoming the first Jew to sit in the House of Lords.
Natty had great hopes that his elder son Walter would follow in his footsteps but Walter was not cut out for banking. From childhood he had been fascinated by animals. He began collecting insects at an early age, then birds. He was interested in living animals — accompanying him to university at Cambridge in 1887 was a small flock of kiwis, and he had a life-long obsession with giant tortoises — but what he loved above all was taxonomy. For his 21st birthday his parents gave him just what he had always wanted: his very own museum, built in the grounds of the family home at Tring, just north of London. If they hoped this would assuage their son's ardour for dull taxonomy and help turn his thoughts towards the heady thrills of banking they were disappointed. Though Walter tried hard to fulfil his family obligations — he joined the firm for a while and became the local member of parliament — he spent more and more time with his collections. In 1894 he started publishing his own journal, Novitates Zoologicae, and his collectors scoured the globe for specimens. In 1915 he inherited the title Baron Rothschild from his father. Walter himself had no children, and the title passed on through his brother Charles's family. Charles was a much better banker than his brother but also fascinated by natural history — especially fleas. He in turn passed on his interest to his daughter Miriam who became one of the most famous entomologists in England. It is she who decided to write a book about her Uncle Walter (Miriam died in 2005 — this book is a reissue of one originally published in 1983).
Though hampered by a surprising dearth of existing records, Miriam Rothschild has amassed an impressive collection of facts. Not only do we have a thorough account of Walter's childhood and the development of the museum, we meet many of his associates, professional and personal. Though he never married nor had children, during his adult life Walter had at least two mistresses. He had a more murky association with a peeress of the realm who for many years blackmailed him. Although Miriam Rothschild claims to know the identity of the blackmailer, she does not reveal it, nor exactly what were the grounds of the blackmail. She hints that it was something sexual, and that Walter kept paying up for fear the truth would be revealed to his mother.
Walter's relationship with his mother was odd — he was always quiet in her company and lived with her until her death. But then Walter was odd. He found it difficult to speak, apparently managing only complete silence or loud bellowing. Though shy and gauche in company, he had a truly phenomenal memory. He knew the identity and location of each and every specimen in the museum. Though he found banking impossible and life outside the museum trying, he managed to fulfil his expected duties as a member of the Rothschild clan. As well as being the local MP for many years he was on the boards of various scientific bodies. As second Baron Rothschild he became de facto head of British Jewry, and it was to him that the 'Balfour Declaration' outlining British government support for a Jewish nation in Palestine, was addressed.
The affectionate portrait that Miriam Rothschild paints of her eccentric uncle is one of the strengths of the book. From her own memories and those of family and friends we discover a man who overcame considerable personal challenges to become one of the greatest collectors and benefactors in modern zoology. The advantages of her 'personal' touch are to some extent counterbalanced by a distinct lack of critical assessment of the man and his work. She pays too little attention to discussing the value of Walter's idiosyncratic approach to collecting and describing, and I would have liked a little less one-sided analysis of his relationship with other museums and institutions. But as an account of the man and his museum I found the book engrossing. Though reprinted as a paperback it is well illustrated and well produced, with an unusually comprehensive index.
When in 1938, towards the end of his life, Walter donated the museum and its collections to the nation, it contained over two million insects, 300,000 bird skins, 200,000 eggs and a library of 30,000 scientific books. A legacy more valuable than gold.
Nicholas Drayson is a novelist and nature writer.