Up the Women: Episode 3 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
“The thing is, Mrs. Unwin, she’s here! Mrs. Pankhurst is coming up the drive!” – Frank Miller.
As the first run of Up the Women comes to a close I find myself falling love with the quirky world of the Banbury Intricate Craft Circle Politely Requests Women’s Suffrage and all the zany characters within it.
After last week’s unseen post office-centered rally, the B.I.C.C.P.R.W.S manage to get in touch with their esteemed leader, Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst (that “cheeky woman”) who promptly arrives at the church hall unexpectedly. Sandi Toksvig takes the role of the suffragist and does it with ease; her performance is effortless and exaggerated as Pankhurst swaggers around the Banbury church hall talking about herself in the third-person. Toksvig is my highlight of episode three and it’s nice to see another character being introduced into the narrative. Jessica Hynes’ Margaret steps to the side once more and it is Rebecca Front whose character, the sourpuss Helen stands up to the disagreeable Pankhurst. Helen has been the mild antagonist for this frankly innocent series and now we finally see why she is so against the suffrage movement. Emmeline Pankhurst tormented Helen when they were both youngsters (“Smelly, smelly, Smellen? Smellen Von Smelling?”) and so the latter has held a grudge against her and her cause. It’s pleasing as a viewer to know that Helen has a reason for being so hostile towards the others and that she isn’t just an unjustified meany. Meanwhile the often-hinted romance between young firebrand Emily and weak-wristed Thomas now flourishes as the pair finally recognize their love in a very awkward scene where they are frequently interrupted by Gwen (Vicki Pepperdine is a sheer delight to watch).
The humor in episode three isn’t quite as concentrated as the previous chapter and the mood is a bit more serious, changing the genre from sitcom to comedy-drama. Emmeline Pankhurst is rather nasty to the Banbury Intricate Craft Circle Politely Request Women’s Suffrage and Margaret makes quite a few poetical speeches in response. Hynes yet again continues to amaze us with crisp English-mannered dialogue and well-rounded characters. I only just realized how attached I had become to them, like the impregnated Eva (with baby fifteen on its way) and the affectionate Gwen whose dotty antics never fail to amuse me. A couple of the craft circle members feel rather underdeveloped (Myrtle, Helen’s mother and Frank the caretaker come to mind) but these are minor quibbles and personally I’ll be sad to see the B.I.C.C.P.R.W.S go off our screens.
I find Up the Women an impossible series to rate and I feel it deserves its own marking scheme. You may consider six, seven and seven point five to be a low score but Up the Women is actually very good, in its own right. The characters are solid three-dimensional figures, the setting is restricted but that comes with the archaic aura and it flits between drama and comedy. Recently the series got commissioned for a second series and I found myself silently delighted. I’ll most certainly be back for more, come the next outing of the Banbury Intricate Craft Circle Politely Requests Women’s Suffrage. Up Up the Women!