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Burton and Taylor

  • Drama


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.



Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

How to watch




Elizabeth TaylorHelena Bonham Carter
Richard BurtonDominic West
Kathryn WalkerSarah Hadland
John CullumWilliam Hope
Milton KatselasStanley Townsend
Chen SamLenora Crichlow
MikeMichael Jibson
ASMJess Doherty
Zev BufmanGreg Hicks
Maria BurtonIsabella Brazier-Jones
Liza Todd BurtonLucille Sharp
Sally BurtonCassie Raine
ReporterMartin T Sherman
JournalistTrevor White
JournalistJeff Mash


DirectorRichard Laxton
ProducerLachlan MacKinnon
WriterWilliam Ivory


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