Burton and Taylor

Burton and Taylor
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Review

There’s a poignant, end-of-an-era feel to this. That’s not only because it’s about two ageing stars (and lovers) giving it one last roll of the dice. It’s also because Burton and Taylor looks like being the last original drama BBC4 will make, which seems absurd after all the successes they’ve had, but there we are.

The good news is, they go out on a high, with a wistful story of love and glamour and growing old that stokes up the emotional power as it goes along. William Ivory’s script opens in 1983, as the twice-married and twice-divorced Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton reunite for a Broadway production of Private Lives. He’s a tired old lion; she’s vulnerable and pill-addicted. They’ve been apart for years, but her heart seems set on more than a professional reunion.

So the stage is set for flirting, rows and power games interspersed with reminiscing on their golden years. It’s touchingly done and steeped in a seedy glamour that is very early-1980s. And in a story that is very much about acting and stardom (“I was acting Antony. She was Cleopatra,” Burton recalls of their 1963 film), Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West are both superb.

Summary

Having battled a series of personal struggles during rehearsals, former spouses Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor prepare to star in a 1983 production of Private Lives. Critical reception is initially poor following the opening performance, but members of the audience - picking up on the parallels between the Noel Coward comedy and the lead actors' own situations - respond far more enthusiastically. Drama based on real-life events, starring Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter.

Cast & Crew

Elizabeth Taylor Helena Bonham Carter
Richard Burton Dominic West
Kathryn Walker Sarah Hadland
John Cullum William Hope
Milton Katselas Stanley Townsend
Chen Sam Lenora Crichlow
Mike Michael Jibson
ASM Jess Doherty
Zev Bufman Greg Hicks
Maria Burton Isabella Brazier-Jones
Liza Todd Burton Lucille Sharp
Sally Burton Cassie Raine
Reporter Martin T Sherman
Journalist Trevor White
Journalist Jeff Mash
Director Richard Laxton
Producer Lachlan MacKinnon
Writer William Ivory
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Drama