A Woman's Guide to Adultery - Daily Express Review
Last Update: 06 Oct 2007
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A WOMAN'S GUIDE TO ADULTERY
Latest small-screen sex romp struck by a touch of modesty
by Jane Warren
November 26, 1993
An electric fan blows cool air over two
entangled bodies. Sensuous moans rend
the warmth of the hotel room. A woman's fingertips race over bare male skin.
"Don't scratch me..." whispers the man, with an urgency and edge to his words.
The woman howls and rears upright, throwing
him off. "Your wife?" she hisses in
This is the opening scene from A Woman's
Guide to Adultery, ITV's sex-and-
selfishness drama which starts on Monday.
While the credits roll Theresa Russell's
character, Rose, cavorts with her
Yet, in an age of sexually enlightened
television, the level of carnal content
is prudishly underplayed,
These days a bit of missionary style congress
- whether the screen couple is
married or not - is barely enough to titilate, let alone inflame.
A steady stream of sex on screen has anaesthetised most viewers.
It is only a moral minority who continue
to condemn television bosses about the
salacious content of dramas screened after the 9pm watershed.
A Woman's Guide to Adultery will not win
plaudits for innovative television
Even prudes will not get steamed up enough
to place pen on paper. The real
critical venom is reserved for programmes showing off-beat sex.
The Buddha of Suburbia, which was recently
screened on BBC2, was labelled ugly,
sordid and seedy for the earthiness of its homo/heterosexual romps and the
gratuitous nudity of an ironing scene.
Ken Russell's production, Lady Chatterley,
starring Joely Richardson and Sean
Bean - who also stars in A Woman's Guide to Adultery - caused uproar in June
for the brutality of its sex scenes, which looked like rape. In both cases the
ratings were, of course, fuelled by the respective controversies.
They tried to get one going about AWGTA despite its relative innocuousness.
Two of its four leading actresses, Amanda
Donohoe and Theresa Russell, have
spoken freely of their own relationships with married men in an effort to
increase pre-screening hype.
Yet despite her candour, Amanda's character,
Jo, doesn't appear in a single bed
scene with her paramour, a married politician played by Ian McElhinney. So just
why is the sex so reserved? Producer, Beryl Vertue, who worked for four years
on the series, says she wanted it that way.
"It was a conscious decision not
to show too much of the sex act. I'm in no way
a prude but I find as a viewer that watching repetitive sex begins to look
"People stare at that and forget
to get involved in the characters. But I
wanted to make something truthful.
"I was on for relationships, truthfulness,
love, sexuality and I thought we
would lose that with overt sex scenes." Theresa Russell who plays Rose, the
most promiscuous of the quartet of girlfriends on whom the action focuses, even
employs an outdated dramatic device to preserve her modesty.
Heading for Paris with the very married
Paul (Sean Bean), she buys feminine
underwear in a boutique. The bed scene is therefore suitably under wraps.
Says Beryl: "I decided that nudity
wouldn't contribute to that scene. The
sexuality of semi-veiled foreplay is more interesting and real, especially for
women. I didn't want our audience to be thrown off track or stop watching
because they label it a sexy romp. I think we show enough of the passion to
demonstrate why someone would commit adultery."
The eroticism is cleverly conceived. In
episode two Fiona Gillies, playing
Jennifer, a university lecturer, attempts to seduce one of her art students by
elegantly arranging one softly-focused limb outside the pink folds of her
When she moves towards the poor chap in
a later scene, the camera cuts. Very
forties. Very subtle.
And for Helen, played by Ingrid Lacey,
who conducts a volatile affair with a
married man in her office, stolen moments of fully clothed office kissing
behind closed doors are erotically charged without being revealing.
Director David Hayman says: "The
series is about women's values and
frustrations. We didn't think it necessary to overdose on the sexual content."
But an awareness of sexuality was certainly employed during the casting.
For the sexiest male role Beryl chose
Sean Bean. "The camera loves him. He is
so charismatic, with riveting eyes and facial expressions."
You may not see full frontal nudity, but
ogling Sean should satisfy most
A Woman's Guide to Adultery will be screened
across the ITV network from Monday
in three one-hour episodes.