From sultry young cabaret dancers linked to powerful high-ranking (married) politicians, gunpoint assassination attempts and MI5 investigating undercover Russian Spies, the events of the infamous Profumo Affair in the UK’s early 1960s sounds like pure cinematic gold. But, as the introductory text to the new docuseries acknowledges, “you couldn’t make this stuff up.”
While it might sound like the script for one of the earlier Cold War James Bond movies, The Trial of Christine Keeler is in fact the latest docuseries on BBC First (119) to tell the story of a beautiful but naïve 19-year-old girl’s illicit affair with Britain’s Minister of War and the subsequent cover-up which nearly brought the British government to its knees.
The Crown meets A Very British Affair
This scintillating six-part BBC series centres around the teenage Keeler (Sophie Cookson from Kingsman), and although the facts are well-known to most, the disconcerting re-telling via subsequent flashbacks subtly changes the narrative, demanding more attention than compared to your average documentary. Through her friendship with socialite osteopath Stephen Ward, deliciously played by James Norton (Grantchester), Keeler becomes intimately involved with the who’s who of England and eventually catches the eye of Secretary of State for War John Profumo, played by Ben Miles (The Crown), as he encounters her naked self, fresh from a swim at newspaper magnate Lord Astor’s country estate at Cliveden. While comparisons to The Crown might seem ambitious, there is a definite link to the final episode of The Crown’s second series, where Prince Philip may or may not have caroused in the company of Stephen Ward.
A new point of view
What makes this refreshing re-telling stand out from previous attempts, is the voice given to the main protagonist: Christine Keeler. When looking at the glamourous images these 1960s models and showgirls, with their teased hair and seductively winged eyeliner, it has always been taken for granted that Keeler and her dolly-bird friend Mandy Rice-Davies were basically kids. These stories and retelling have always cast Christine Keeler as a supporting actress in her own life story. This new series provides Keeler with a voice of her own, and while we may wonder whether she is the agent of chaos, or the victim of it, at least it her own voice that is narrating the story that defined her life.
Watch The Trial of Christine Keeler Saturdays on BBC First (119) at 21:00
Also available on DStv Catch Up