Apple Tree Yard writer Amanda Coe is to take a “fresh look” at the Profumo scandal that rocked the British establishment in the 1960s in a new BBC drama series.
Her new six-part series, The Trial of Christine Keeler, will tell the “human story” about the sexual and cultural politics of the scandal involving Keeler, who was just 19 years old at the time she was revealed to be having an affair with the Minister for War John Profumo as well as a Soviet naval attaché.
The scandal rocked the male-dominated establishment and brought down Profumo because of the security risk supposedly posed by his actions. The scandal was believed to have played a part in the Conservative Party’s loss of the 1964 election to Labour.
But there was a profound personal cost too to many of those involved. Keeler’s friend, an osteopath called Stephen Ward who introduced her to Profumo, killed himself during the final stages of his trial for immorality offences, believing he was being made a scapegoat.
“In 1963 Britain changed irrevocably,” said executive producer Kate Triggs. “Old certainties about class, race and sex exploded. And 19-year-old Christine Keeler was the flame that lit the touchpaper. This is a story about change: a story for our times. I am thrilled to be working with Amanda Coe again and to see her brilliance shine through this original commission.”
The commission was announced today by the controller of BBC drama Piers Wenger who said: “The Profumo Affair endures as one of the great political scandals of the 20th Century, a crucible for the shifts in class, gender and racial politics of the day. Amanda’s brilliant script digs more deeply than ever before on the nature of the taboos which were busted and the lives shattered offering a fresh and nuanced perspective on the complex lives of the young women at the heart of this story.”
Amanda Coe added: “I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring a fresh lens to a story that has become a powerful fable of our national identity. The astonishing story of Christine Keeler and the so-called Profumo affair is the Salem Witch Trial meets OJ Simpson – a perfect storm of gender, class, race and power that resonates into the world we’re living in today.”
Filming begins in the UK in 2018 with casting due to begin shortly. It is likely to air in 2019.