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Review: Different for Girls: The Whole Story

Jacquie Lawrence’s drama is back on the small screen.

Scroll through your TV planner or, if you’re of a certain age, flick through the listings in your Radio Times, and try to calculate how many TV dramas focus on straight male leads. When you get to a million, you can stop.

Cop shows, legal dramas, coming-of-age comedies – oh, let’s face it, almost every genre you can think of – are wall to wall fellas. Sure, there are plenty of strong female characters – some might even be lesbians (my siblings at DIVA wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t give a nod to Holby City’s “Berena”) and some might have some decent plot lines, yet since John Logie Baird first transmitted monochrome flickers from one room to another, almost none have been brave enough to centre themselves almost exclusively on a group of women whose lives, loves and tribulations have virtually nothing to do with men.

Writer Jacquie Lawrence’s adaptation of her own 2015 novel, Different For Girls, apart from anything else, proves conclusively that an ensemble cast of mostly women can hold a drama together on their own, with flawed characters (I’m looking at you, Fran), soapy plotlines (no spoilers – but DON’T MISS THE WEDDING SCENE) and – frankly – the normalisation of lesbian characters where their sexuality is secondary to the ups and downs of the women’s day to day lives. You know, just like in a mainstream TV programme.

Victoria Broom’s Fran – moody

And that’s where the beauty of Lawrence’s writing delivers its pay off. While the Lesbian Box Office production will, of course, find its core market among LBT+ women, its themes are universal: complex love lives, parenting, friendship…and anyone who has seen even five minutes of Shakespeare will know that it is a drama’s themes which give it it’s perennial appeal. Let’s not go off on too much of a tangent here, but Othello, for example, is about jealousy, and the fact that the action is set in and around a military camp hundreds of years ago is all but irrelevant to the play’s eternal staying power.

But decent writing and universal themes do not always lead to success. Fortunately, producer and BBC alumna Fizz Milton’s team has created a perfect storm of talent, with Campbell X’s slick direction and punchy editing complementing some genuinely outstanding performances from an ensemble cast including star-in-the-making Victoria Broom and screen legend Denise Welch.

I watched  “Different for Girls: the whole story” back to back in one sitting, and the time flew by. But the best compliment I can give is this: after a while, I forgot I was watching a programme chiefly about lesbians. I simply found myself absorbed in the day-to-day lives of these characters, irrespective of their sexuality, and when the credits finally rolled, I left the screening room wanting more. Hopefully Ms Lawrence will already be scribbling away.

Different for Girls : The Whole Story is now available to rent or buy at lesbianboxoffice.com 

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