Welcome back to the luscious period BBC drama of Tipping the Velvet, I hear the second episode is even more hand-kissy than the last! From the book by Sarah Waters to the show, on we roll..
We left an excited Nan running up the stairs to her shared room with Kitty, returning early to find her girlfriend in bed with their boss, Walter. Whut? I was a wee bit confused because Kitty had been pretty clear that she didn't sleep with bosses to get ahead, so she must be bisexual, although maybe she was put in an untenable position. Let's find out what Nan thinks of alla dat!
"What's this?" asks Nan. It's worse than that, they were going to tell her when she got back... did they get married?? WHAT?? OH JEEBUS. They ARE going to get married, WTF? Kitty could not be any more lesbian if she cut her hair shorter and opened for RuPaul BOTS in Sydney (I LOVE JESSIE J). But no, Walter will not have this caterwauling any longer, Nan will just have to get over it. He knows they were "sweethearts of a sort," which makes Nan blow her top. She shouts "DIDN'T SHE TELL YOU THAT WE FCUK EACH OTHER??" but he won't have that language, thank you very much. Besides which, if he WAS going to use that language, he wouldn't use it for anything a pair of girls would do. "Need a man for that, I think you'll find, eh Kitty?" I mean. I'M PRETTY SURE YOU DON'T, although this is bringing back alls the Chasing Amy bar scene vibes. I loved that movie. So much. It gave me all the false hope about Baffleck.
Oh Nan. She's devastated, saying goodbye quietly and whirling around to leave. She runs down the stairs and down the street crying and repeating "you said we'd be together forever. You said you loved me" over and over.
Why would Kitty do that? Giving in to societal pressure? Could she actually love this most typical of boorish dude of the time?
Nan walked all night, coming back to the rehearsal hall first thing in the morning, before Kitty and Walter make it in. She packs her things, takes all the monnay and leaves a note on the mirror in lipstick "I have taken only what is mine"; she's off!
Nan's off to her new room, 5 shillings a week and no gentlemen callers. She assures the landlady that will be no problem. Poor Nan, this is an awful landlady and what will she do in the city by herself? I hope she sets up a new act with one of those promoters that was after her and Kitty.
She's just hiding in her room, day after day while a young maid Mary brings up food and Nan remembers the glory of her past love with Kitty. And then she gets angry. Every time I see Nan with short hair, I want to cut mine, it looks so sleek.
She stayed in that room for 2 months like that, in the same dress, only having the one, right until she saw the wedding announcement of Butler and Bliss in the newspaper.
Nan's not loving the city by herself, it's not easy being a single woman walking these streets with all these un-evolved handsy gentlemen wandering about, even with wearing the same dress for two months straight.
But she has that bag of theatrical clothing...hasn't she? She stares at it hard and makes a decision.
She goes to a place that rents rooms by the hour, emerging shortly thereafter dressed as a man and just when I was wondering why she paid to do that? Of course... she couldn't do that at her place with the No Gentlemen Callers Nazi lurking aboot.
She's even propositioned by a prossie on the street, woo hoo, taking it as validation! She stares hard at herself in the mirror (Dixie said she's Diana Rigg's daughter and I can TOTALLY see it! Gorgeous) and cupping a buttock here and there. You know, as men do. She didn't know what this change would do for her, but she embraced it all the same.
She's approached as she's staring into a store window, dressed in her little tin soldier outfit; a creepy old dewd thinks Nan's a sweetheart and I think I may have to switch pronouns so as not to be confusing. I shall call Nan's male alter-ego Tommy, because that's what the john dubs him, looking for a handie for a sovereign.
This show is kind of awesome in it's sexuality-bending. Last episode, we had Nan and Kitty impersonating men, and kissing, while one was pretending to be a man pretending to be a girl and this week we have a man paying a woman for a handie because he thinks she's a man. Let's just say his gigglestick isn't gonna care about chromosomes; isn't the human brain an amazing thing??
This dialogue is awesome and must be taken down in it's entirely: "Have a heart, Tommy, I'm as hard as a broomstick and aching for a spend."
Oh it's not just a hand, though, it's a blowie and the john's eyebrows are worth the price of admission, no joke. Atta girl, Tommy, you're set for a couple of weeks!
HAHAHAHA the facial expressions as she's opening all their trousers! HAHAHAHA I seriously hope she's checking for irregularities, syphilis ran rampant at that time and nobody wants to lose their nose for a sovereign. Aw man, that makes me think of The Knick. I loved that first series, but I couldn't bring myself to finish the second.
Now that she's got a full-time job, Nan wants a respectable place to stay and a good place to change that doesn't smell like her day job. Lots of signs about for "FE-MALE"s! As she's knocking on the door of one such house, a woman calls a greeting from across the street. She holds Nan's eyes a little longer than strictly necessary, cause mine and Nan's to widen. Well, she certainly has a type! Straw-coloured hair and a straightforward face.
The flat is a Victorian nightmare, creepy dolls and lace and wooden rocking horses. A girl, Grace (Heather Dickinson) rocks herself by the fire, she's rather...unusual, explains her mum, they were hoping for someone quite a bit older, a widow perhaps. They don't want any young men lurking around our impressionable Grace.
Nan explains that she's a type of entertainer (cough cough) that occasionally dresses in men's clothing, would that be all right? Would Grace like to see? Grace LOVES the men's clothing! And Grace's mum is ecstatic that Grace is happy and all is right with the world.
Nan doesn't go out every evening, though, sometimes she stays home in full drag and stares at her neighbour out the window. She thinks the secret to happiness is wanting little and I could not agree more. It's all in managing one's expectations. She shouts across to the lady of the straw-coloured hair, finding out her name is Florence (Jodhi May). She wants to see more of Florence.
She gets her chance soon, calling over to Florence and confessing to being the male voice in the window the other night. I don't know if it's the dress or what, but all I can see in this extremely drab, head to toe dress Nan is wearing is her bewbs. Full on. I think Florence thought the same, blushing.
Florence isn't shocked by Nan's gender-bending dress, she can see the advantages and just then I realised that Nan probably started dressing in drag partly to avoid all the harassment single women received in the street back then. Because that doesn't happen these days, oh no. Nuh uh.
Florence is working for a Miss Darby who's writing a book about women, maybe Nan should meet her! Florence invites Nan to a lecture, it's a testament to her interest in Florence that she agrees to go. It's always like that in the beginning, isn't it? Go to a lecture, go for a walk, sure, anything before the wobbly bits mushing part!
They have tea first, talking about Nan's past life in Whitstable and she says her parents are dead? I guess that's easier? I'm an awful liar, I have to stick to as close to the truth as possible and try to omit where possible or you lot would know my shoe size and everything. It's a curse. Nan wasn't prepared for normal chitchat about her life seems more likely, she blurts out that she works in a hat shoppe, which confuses Florence and I, as Nan's wearing quite possibly the ugliest and plainest hat ever.
Nan's just as bad a liar as me, she doesn't want to carry on prevaricating at Florence so she makes a run for it. I mean. They live across the street from each other! It's like the Dukes of Hazard, yes them Duke boys got away, but WE KNOW WHERE THEY LIVE!
Nan's ashamed of her life, though, sex work is a tough row to hoe. Mentally, physically, personal safety-wise: it's a doozy and drug addiction is everywhere. She dresses as Tommy for the night and heads out to pay the rent. Hmm, she's being followed by the police, I fink, though, and this will be a mess if she's nabbed. She takes a client out back and ohhh, even though she said she won't be buggered, he's making his own rules and she's only saved by one of the dark men following them. She throws a "it's my first time, Constable" out there through tears, but he's not a copper after all. Someone's taken a fancy to her.
She shouts "I WON'T BE BUGGERED" as he guides her into the waiting carriage and I know it's supposed to be funny, but you know. It's not. Minute.
Oh thank goodness, it's a woman in the carriage, she wants to offer our Nan a hot toddy to calm her nerves after her "difficulty" just then. It gets very odd then, she's been watching Nan for quite some time, well aware that Nan's on the game and ALSO that Nan's a girl. Huh. She perhaps would like some of that strictness? Nan is confused, but her new friend asks where her sense of adventure is? This could be the luckiest night of her life!
It would be HILARIOUS if this was Miss Darby, who Nan couldn't give a fig about meeting previously!
They reach the Lady's fancy house, everyone is dismissed and Nan is taken upstairs for a drink. Well, not at first, she has to sit there sweltering while Mrs. Diana Lethaby (Anna Chancellor) drinks and smokes by herself first. Diana finally gives Nan a cig and some wine, but she doesn't get to enjoy it for very long.
They're about to play a game called "If You Were The King of Pleasure and I Was The Queen of Pain" and then there is ginch-sniffing; take those clothes off, soldier! Nan hurries to disrobe quickly enough, she can keep the jacket, hat and boots on, though.
Half nekkid, Nan is directed to go into the bedroom and open the chest at the end of the bed, under the mirrors. Faster, soldier!
The chest has a really pretty lock! And Nan has a really cute bum, btw. Inside the chest is a giant dildo in a harness.
HAHAHAHA, it's so big that when Nan comes back to the room, it enters a full 30 seconds ahead of her, wait, what is that made out of?? HAHAHAHA I'm sorry, vintage dildos are awesome, just be careful, Nan! You could put your back out now that your center of gravity's moved 12 inches to the front.
Mrs. Lethaby approves, kissing Nan and riding her like a tiny pony on a chair and thank goodness. That didn't look like the kind of thunderstick you wanted to mess about with if you didn't know what you're doing. Spent, Mrs. Lethaby drops into the chair opposite "you exquisite little tart."
So. Mrs. Lethaby wanted to have sex with a woman, dressed as a man, with man parts. Again: the human brain is AWESOME.
The next morning, a perky Mrs. Lethaby has been waiting for Nan to wake up for AGES! She's all chatty and she sends for breakfast right away, let Nan catch her breath, Diana! She read a Persian story when she was a child, about a beggar who was offered two choices from a genie: a mediocre life for 70 years (how old was this beggar?) or pleasure for 500 days? Which would Nan choose? Pleasure, she says, which is exactly what the Queen of Pain wanted to hear. She wants Nan as her tart!
Nan and I would like a little more detail on that; what does that mean exactly? Attending her at the theatre, wearing finest clothes and mutual pleasuring, but only belonging to her. This is very Pretty Woman!! Nan tries to resist, she doesn't know Mrs. Lethaby! But she wants her and the pleasure that's on offer.
Nan's fitted in new male clothes and taken 'round to be shown off; I'm sorry, Mrs. Lethaby is creepy AF sometimes. Nan is now called The Boy. They run into an old friend of hers, Mrs. Jex (Janet Henfrey) with her own tart, Dickie (Sarah Stockbridge) who doesn't enjoy the attention our Nan's getting. Mrs. Jex asks all kinds of personal questions and Nan gives them real answers, including her real place of birth. Mrs. Jex calls her a Whitstable Mermaid, which reminds Nan of Kitty kissing her hands, saying she smelled like a mermaid and awww.
Nan adjusts quite well to the life, Diana showing her off and setting up shows at home to display her tart to it's best advantage, knowing that everyone would want her, but also be aware that only Diana would be enjoying her later. One such tableau is Hemaphrodite, where a gold dust covered Nan wearing a golden dildo and harness is taken out for a walk amongst the guests. Mrs. Jex seems to enjoy that particularly, drawing more of Dickie's ire.
Later, a fully dressed Mrs. Lethaby impales herself on the golden spear and I'm sorry for impaled, it's the only word that described the act. Nan looks purty and decadent and:
The next morning, a petulant Nan is having her gold lame scrubbed off by the housemaid Blake (Sally Hawkins) who's been giving extra long looks at Mrs. Lethaby and Nan. Why didn't the mistress tell her she was going out, Nan wants to know? She can do as she likes, says Blake, not like Nan and her. What would Blake do if she was her own mistress? She'd go to the colonies and run a boarding house, Nan would be welcome.
Nan waits. And waits. And waits. Mrs. Lethaby gives her a pocket watch, she's been with her longer than any of the others, quite the accomplishment. Nan doesn't look as though she feels exactly the same about that.
At the theatre one evening, Mrs. Lethaby's ordering Nan around as usual, directing Mrs. Jex and Dickie to leave their coats and hats with the Boy. She goes to the coat check counter, all a-pout, until she sees Bill from the stage production! She's overjoyed to see him! He tells her Kitty and Walter have an act together just down the road, starting at the half.
Diana and her friends are watching the Boy converse with Bill with alarm, it's as though The Boy thinks it's human! Nan ducks out to attend to the call of nature, Diana knows sommat is up and sends her driver to follow The Boy. She just wants to see Kitty again.
Walter's on when she arrives, soon to be followed by Kitty. I don't know, it seemed lame-ish, but people liked it?
Nan RUNS back to the theatre to find Mrs. Lethaby waiting and watching for her. Nan tries to play it off as sickness in the Gents, but there's the driver and HAHAHAHA Diana tilting her head to the side. This is not a woman to be lied to or trifled with.
In the carriage, they fight, full on hands slapping and kicking and WHY did The Boy go off like that?? To see WHAT act?? And did she love this person more than she loves Diana? But Nan doesn't love Mrs. Lethaby, she hates her and the blows become more violent and then kissing while Nan cries. She loves Kitty still.
The next morning, Nan calls Blake over to talk to her, she wants to know about her past. Mrs. Lethaby says she got Blake from a reformatory. Ah, it seems Blake had a close friend named Agnes, too close for other people, and she got thrown in juvy. Mrs. Lethaby knew all about why, being close friends with the lady Guvnor of the place, and she ended up here. Blake must be very young, because Nan's quite worried that their mistress has been messing with her, which she had done in the past, but not since Nan came. It wasn't much, she just wanted Blake to know she could do anything she wanted with her, and that DOES sound like our Mrs. Lethaby.
Nan had been with Mrs. Lethaby for two years by this point, still obsessed with her and waiting. Diana calls Nan the love of her life, but The Boy hates her life.
They're throwing a fancy dress party for Diana's 40th birthday and Nan has decided to come as Antinuous, Hadrian's page who drowned in the Nile. I don't know Diana as well as Nan does, but I'd say her outfit covers entirely too much skin.
During the tableau, there are quite a few disappointed watchers as well; where are the dildos?? Mrs. Jex even takes a run at touching the young Antinuous to be tartly rebuffed by the innocent Boy himself.
The bachanalia continues in to the night, Mrs. Jex waxing poetic about giant clitori (guessing that's the plural?) whilst other partygoers pooh pooh; English slum girls all have giant men in their boats, it's all the middle of the night enthusiastic having at themselves. Diana asks Antinuous to show them one way or the other, wasn't she a little "slum slut?" Or no, how about young Blake from the reformatory? Mrs. Lethaby orders Blake to drop her drawers; Blake looks like she's about to vomit and pass out, not necessarily in that order.
Nan steps in front of Blake, you leave her alone! Oh no, that will not be how it goes down on Diana's birthday party, it will not. Diana orders Nan to step aside, when they're done with Blake perhaps they'll all have a run at Antinuous, will they? Nan has HAD it, spearing Dickie with withering scorn for her ridiculous Dorian Gray outfit and the rest of the hags as old trotters, shocking everyone. Diana orders her to be silent, but The Boy's just getting started, hurling invective in a stream at Mrs. Lethaby, causing everyone to laugh at her. On her birthday. On her 40TH BIRTHDAY. Diana isn't having that, snatching up a goblet and striking Nan across the face with it.
Back in her room, Nan's crying as Blake comes in with ice, can she stay here with her, she's so worried about those ladies wandering the halls. Blake's brought brandy too and all of a sudden they're kissing and then they're in bed and Diana is NOT going to like this.
They make love, and Blake makes me laugh when she says "oh miss! What a thing to do" when Nan flips up her skirt. The ladies whirl and twirl downstairs but I don't see Diana not coming up to check on her recalcitrant tart.
Nan's curious too, did Blake used to frig herself in the reformatory? What, pfft, her with a c*ck? She'd like to see that. And so would Nan, as it happens. Guess where there's one?? No, GUESS?? They're working out the logistics back on the bed, yay, Nan gets a turn on the other side for once! Side note: I know they're sticking it to The Man, but those aren't really for sharezies...
Just then, Diana and all the ladies burst in and I'm actually glad that's what was happening just then, those ladies are a force to be reckoned with. The camera swings back and forth between Nan, her face still streaked with blood, next to Blake, whose face is all smudgy with blood and the horrified fine ladies of London. Halp! The Help is banging each other! And we're oot.
Well. Nan's certainly having a more interesting life than it would have seemed possible back in the oyster bars of Whitstable, I have to wonder if these people exist? Pockets of rich women with gender-bending tarts on a leash? I do love how sexuality is extended in every possible direction on this show, the human brain is a wonder of mechanizations. Will Nan and Kitty be reunited and Walter cast aside? Only one more to find out, until next time, keep your fancy wobblies locked in a box for special occasions!