The Rise and Fall of John Stonehouse -
an enjoyable BritBox political romp
BritBox’s Stonehouse is an entertaining 3-part mini-series that delves into the life and times of the disgraced British politician who faked his own death in the 1970s. Emmy winner Matthew Macfadyen stars as the ambitious and determined Labor MP who hatches a daring plan to escape his mounting financial woes and political scandal.
The series traces Stonehouse's rise to power, from a humble background to becoming a powerful politician with a taste for luxury and a fondness for the ladies. Macfadyen captures the nuances of Stonehouse's personality, bringing out both his charisma and his flaws. He imbues his character with a magnetic charm that makes it easy to see how Stonehouse was able to captivate the British public as well as his Parliamentary colleagues.
As the plot unfolds, the series delves into Stonehouse's complicated personal life, his extramarital affairs and his financial troubles, which eventually lead him to take drastic measures to escape his problems. As political scandals go, this one is pretty outrageous. At one point, Stonehouse is even mistaken for Lord Lucan, and given the timing and context,
that’s not actually as absurd as it might sound.
Keeley Hawes is absolutely magnificent as always, playing saintly Barbara Stonehouse, the archetypal politician’s wife, standing loyally beside her man through thick and thin. The fact that she and Macfadyen are real-life husband and wife makes this on-screen partnership even more fascinating.
The tone is light-hearted throughout and Stonehouse features laugh-out-loud moments with witty quips from the likes of Harold Wilson, believe it or not, to lift the mood. I particularly enjoyed the 70s styles and fashions, and a script that is refreshingly un-sweary too.
Overall, Stonehouse is a must-watch for anyone interested in political drama and the fascinating true story of a man who was willing to risk everything to stay in power. Highly recommended.
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