Premiere, a brothel owner in 18th century England struggles to raise her daughters, on April 19th, 2017
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2017/4/19 – “You see the cost of it emotionally, and you see the cost of it practically,” says Harlot star Lesley Manville. “One in five women in London in 1763 were prostitutes. That’s an enormous amount of women who were, probably not always out of choice, using that to make a living.”
“I think what it does really well is show prostitution from every social angle,” says Manville. “You know, you see the high class prostitution, the girls that are having sex in back alleys. ”
“Lydia’s set is beautiful, I mean really beautiful,” says Manville. “The palette of colors was astonishing. And I came in one day and there’s four of Lydia’s prostitutes sitting on this beautiful chaise lounge, and they’re all dressed in sort of pastel blues and pinks and peaches and vanillas and they looked like a Gainsborough painting. It looked beautiful. And I remember thinking, God, if I was going to be a prostitute in 1760, I know whose house I’d rather be in.”
“I read Harris’s List, which is fascinating and very funny as well,” says Manville. “But I also read a very good book called The Georgian Bawdyhouse and another general book on the Georgian period. I was surprised at how rife it was and how desperate women were to hang on to some grain of independence.”
Manville refers to the book Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies.
“And the other thing I found out, which I thought was hilarious, was that occasionally women, just bored married women who lived in the suburbs, would come to London for the day, have sex for money although the money was sort of irrelevant, because they were well off women just for the fun, because they were in dull marriages,” says Manville. “But the thought of a woman from somewhere like Weybridge, which you won’t probably appreciate, but which is real posh suburban England, coming up to London for the day and having sex and being paid just for the thrill of it, I mean it says an awful lot about all of these dreadful marriages that women were forced into and their need to clear a pathway and get some kind of autonomy and some power.”
“There’s a corset obviously, but the corset was providing a different function from the Victorian period, which was all about pulling in the waist and sort of flattening your breasts so that you had this kind of tabletop,” says Manville. “The purpose of the corset in Georgian England was to shove up your bosom so that as much of it could be poking out the top. So that’s quite tight and uncomfortable. And then you have this sort of cage called panniers which ties around your waist and it sort of sticks out at the side. So you can’t really walk through a door straight. You have to kind of angle yourself. And it is all quite heavy, but it made me feel so right. And, of course, the great thing about costumes in those periods is that it was crystal clear what your class was. The more you were dressed up, the powdered wigs and the white faces was very much to do with being upper class, being aristocratic.”
“In 1760s London there were brothels on every corner run by women who were both enterprising and tenacious,” says Executive Producer Alison Owen. “History has largely ignored them, but their stories are in turn outrageous, brutal, humorous and real.”
In Harlots, Samantha Morton is Margaret Wells. She struggles to reconcile her roles as the mother of two and brothel owner in 18th century Georgian London
Lesley Manville is Lydia Quigley. She is a rival madam that attacks Wells’ brothel. Margaret will fight back, even if it means putting her family at risk.
Jessica Brown Findlay is Charlotte, Margaret’s eldest daughter and one of the courtesans. She begins to grapple with her position in both society and her immediate family.
Harlots is a powerful family drama offering a brand new take on the city’s commercial activity, sex.
- Samantha Morton as Margaret Wells
- Lesley Manville as Lydia Quigley
- Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells
- Eloise Smyth as Lucy Wells
A Monumental Pictures Production. Written by Moira Buffini. Directed by Coky Giedroyc and China Moo-Young. Produced by Lawrence Till.
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