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Bridgerton review: A fun regency period romp

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Just as fun, just as horny and just as dramatic as our much-missed Gossip Girl, Bridgerton is a welcome distraction as we go into a new year in yet another lockdown. With Shonda Rhimes as one of the show’s producers, romance, plot twists, and intriguing gossip was to be expected. The eight episodes follow the widowed Lady Violet Bridgerton and her five oldest children navigating the debauched and rumour filled society of 1813 London. Scandals are frequent for their family and other members of the aristocracy around them, all reported by the unknown Lady Whistledown in her widely read paper. Bridgerton is hilarious, addictive and absolutely the kind of escapist romance that we need right now.

The sets, costumes and music are genuinely beautiful. “London” was filmed in Bath. Clyvedon Castle, where the Duke of Hastings resides, is fictitious and is in fact a mixture of Castle Howard in York, Wilton House in Salisbury and Badminton House in Gloucestershire. We see a blending of all the photogenic parts of England that creates an idealised country simultaneously familiar but fictive. What I find so absorbing is the synthesis of the modern world with the regency era. It is the same with its music. Songs most of us know are given a Georgian makeover. The dancing and drama are set to a playlist of 19th century orchestral covers of Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, and so on. It works.

A standout character was Golda Rosheuvel’s Queen Charlotte. A middle aged, snuff sniffing, judgmental queen bee, who manages to balance ridiculously fantastical wigs on her head and a Pomeranian in her hand. Yet despite her comedy, the relationship portrayed between her and her famously mad husband, King George III is tragic. King George is not the man Queen Charlotte fell in love with, that man is disappearing, and I could see that perfectly on Rosheuval’s face.

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Other characters were also well acted. Regé-Jean Page’s Duke has been written with all the tropes of the stoic bad boy that falls for the pretty, innocent girl, but he does it well. At times, I found the feminist message the show was trying to promote through Eloise (Claudia Jesse) a bit shallow, but her and all the other young women’s absolute ignorance regarding sex and pregnancy was quite funny.

In terms of the costumes worn, were they historically accurate? I’m not sure, and I don’t really care. The general shape and cut of the dresses were accurate, but colour, fabric and pattern were taken from Dior and Chanel. The Bridgertons preside in demure and sweet pastels, similar to the aesthetic of the 2020 movie Emma, whilst the Featheringtons over accessorize in lurid greens, pinks and acid yellow. There were apparently 7,500 costumes with over 100 for Phoebe Dynevor’s Daphne alone. Her sister Eloise had more of a menswear inspired wardrobe to suit her more “masculine” aspirations of going to university and avoiding marriage. Bridgerton’s costumes, as well as its stunning sets and ball scenes, contribute to its dazzingly production quality that will astonish even the most aristocratic of viewers.

Do not expect Pride and Prejudice. Expect a Jane Austen fan fiction narrated by Julie Andrews and expect to be entertained.

Illustration: Becky Spiers