Written by Kevin Elyot
Directed by Geoffrey Sax
Christopher (to W.H Auden): “I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere. I rather like being a foreigner. I wonder where we’ll end up.”
After months of wanting this to finally air, BBC2 finally decided to pick a Saturday timeslot for the 90 minute piece that gave as best an insight into writer Christopher Isherwood as it could do. 90 minutes isn’t always enough time to tell the right story but thanks to a clever script and several engaging performances, this does the best it can and then some.
The focus is definitely however more geared towards Isherwood’s time in Berlin and with good reason. It was definitely the most influential time period in the writer’s life and it’s certainly the one with the most defining of relationships as well with a great array of characters shaping Isherwood through the time period this is based in.
From a family perspective, we saw his rather suffocating mother and brother, who was casually dismissed as inferior to the famous writer but it’s probably Isherwood’s relationship with poet W.H Auden that is the most constant throughout this piece. Auden is definitely the one to encourage Christopher to go to Berlin and certainly opened up his eyes to the decadence of the gay scene as well during that period.
Isherwood’s two main relationships with men certainly go through their peeks and troughs as well. Casper was a dashing gay for pay straight man who eventually disgusted Isherwood with his allegiance to the Nazis and street cleaner Heinz was the younger man that Isherwood tried and in some ways was unable to save from the persecution of war torn Germany at the time. It’s definitely the most impacting relationship outside of Auden as well.
Speaking of impacting, hats off to fiery struggling actress and all round force of nature, Jean Ross. As a character, she’s every bit as vibrant as the creation that she would later inspire for Isherwood and her relationship with the writer is definitely one of the most endearing friendships seen throughout the whole thing. I think everyone would want a Jean Ross in their corner.
In terms of the acting, Matt Smith is on fine form as Isherwood and Imogen Poots certainly breathed a zesty life into Jean but I really cannot think of anyone who paled. Everyone, no matter how small or large the role in this excelled and in terms of sexual content, I was actually impressed with the BBC for really allowing Matt Smith and the production to go there with Christopher and his lovers. The sex scenes were definitely graphic but not salacious though I’m sure there are some viewers who have seen the Doctor in a different light now because of this one-off piece.
- This was filmed in Northern Ireland around summer 2010 as the announcer was mostly keen to remind viewers at the start.
- People such as Jean and Gerard would go on to inspire the main characters for Cabaret, which BBC2 are airing on Monday at 11.50pm.
- Matt Smith was reunited with two people he worked with on other productions with Lindsay Duncan playing Isherwood’s mother and Toby Jones playing Gerard.
- At one point we did see Isherwood as an older man while several bits had to be mentioned in the credits rather than seen.
As a production, Christopher And His Kind is definitely something to be proud of. Matt Smith along with everyone else was on exceptionally fine form and even though we’re at a point where we’re used to seeing dramatic productions of Nazi Germany, it didn’t stop the scenes here from making an impact. Definitely one of the standout pieces this year so far.
Rating: 9 out of 10.