Lady Chatterley's Lover: BBC adaptation divides critics as some say it 'borders on porn' and others promise 'no raised eyebrows'

DH Lawrence's classic will air on BBC One as part of a September series

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The Independent Culture

Downton Abbey will be getting some hot new Sunday night competition, quite literally, when the BBC's adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover hits our living rooms next month.

Critics' reactions to an early screening of the one-off DH Lawrence period drama have been mixed, with some papers promising "sexual gymnastics" that "borders on porn" while others insist there will be no "explicit nude scenes" or "raised eyebrows over supper".

Holliday Grainger takes the lead as Lady Constance Chatterley, with James Norton playing her "war-wounded" impotent husband Sir Clifford Chatterley and former Game of Thrones star Richard Madden as gamekeeper Oliver Mellors.

Written and directed by Bafta nominee Jed Mercurio, the show tells the early 20th century story of Lady Chatterley's passionate love affair with Mellors despite their class differences.

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James Norton and Holliday Grainger as Lord and Lady Chatterley

The original 1928 novel was censored in Britain for over 30 years for its obscene language and graphic sex scenes. But while the raunchiness of the three sex scenes is under debate, Lawrence's four-letter words do not feature in the new adaptation as Mercurio did not see them as "groundbreaking" anymore.

"That battle has been won. The idea was to tell this as a love story, a love triangle. Swearing or sex scenes don't excite me because they don't have emotional content," he told reporters at the advance screening.

"I think that putting Lady Chatterley at the centre and making her a much more thinking person, much more decisive, was one of the most important things."

 

The BBC's 1993 take on Lady Chatterley's Lover, starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean, attracted viewer complaints for its full frontal nudity, but Madden has also spoken about not feeling the need to shock this time around.

"Come on guys, we've got Google. There's nothing that's going to shock us that we're going to do in Lady Chatterley's Lover is there?" Madden told the Press Association in March.

"All that stigma, all that smut's gone and it's actually it's just about these three people which is the fascinating story of it. There's sex and passion in it but we're not going to shock people like the book did."

There will however be one scene in which Lady Chatterley runs to Mellors in the middle of a storm, wearing only her nightdress. He performs a sex act on her outside his cabin, but both apparently remain fully-clothed.

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BBC bosses will be hoping for a repeat of the success of its Poldark remake, watched by around eight million people earlier this year.

Lady Chatterley's Lover is yet to receive an air date but it will be broadcast one Sunday in September as part of a BBC One series of classic literary adaptations, also including The Go Between by LP Hartley, Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee an An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley.

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