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Drama reopens bets on a 40-year-old mystery

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

Rory Kinnear makes a terrific job of portraying the 'Lucky' lord in the drama, Lucan

Rory Kinnear makes a terrific job of portraying the 'Lucky' lord in the drama, Lucan

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It's one of the most intriguing mysteries of the 20th century: what happened to Lord Lucan after he murdered his children's nanny Sandra Rivett and left his estranged wife, Veronica, badly injured at their Belgravia home?

Did he kill himself? Was he murdered by his own henchmen? Almost 40 years later, the truth about the crime he was convicted of in his absence, and his subsequent flight into thin air has never been established, but the fascination remains.

For those closely connected to the case, I don't expect the affair being dragged up again to offer any comfort, but it's a cracking story.

It did, however need sensitive handling and Lucan (ITV1, Wednesday – the first of two parts) made a brilliant job of turning it into a classy, television drama that they have based on fact, but embellished with fictional elements. It was scripted by Jeff Pope from John Pearson's book The Gamblers, thereby setting it in the context of an exclusive world of secrets, lies and privilege most of us would never get anywhere near.

Giving the title role to Rory Kinnear was a stroke of genius – his portrayal of a buttoned-up aristocrat descending into debt and desperation was both convincing and unnerving.

Catherine McCormack was admirable as the depressed and downtrodden Veronica; each attempt she made to defend herself, her children and her rights as a mother was cruelly twisted and smashed by the man she married, who tried to have her committed for her outbursts.

Then there was Christopher Eccleston, superbly understated as the cold and manipulative Aspinall, leading Lucan deeper into gambling addiction at his Clermont Club...

The period detail was spot on; the shooting mood and style took me right back to being a teenager in mid-1970s London when the news of the murder first broke; as an aspiring journalist I remember apparent "sightings" of the missing Earl hitting the headlines for months.

I eagerly await part two and the conclusions reached.

Now, I'm no fan of The X Factor (ITV, Saturday and Sunday) but I'm keeping an eye on it to track the progress of Devon finalist Luke Friend. Fingers crossed for tonight, young man... but remember there are many more organic paths to success. If, like me, you're a fan of real music, honestly and passionately made, then you might have caught a great little documentary called Get Folked (More 4, Saturday).

If not, it's worth seeking out on catch-up, not least for an interview with of our very own Westcountry hero Seth Lakeman striding across a broody Dartmoor with his violin, and Ade Edmondson cradling his mandolin and talking about why he loves stripping back punk and rock songs to acoustic basics.

The programme put the spotlight on a host of artists making their mark in what has been labelled the current folk revival, through first-hand testimony and intimate exclusive performances. It was remarkable how many we have interviewed, featured or reviewed for the Western Morning News over the past couple of years – Jake Bugg, Frank Turner, The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, The Unthanks, Newton Faulkner, Tuung and Johnny Flynn.

And then there was the older guard like Billy Bragg, Danny Thompson, Donovan and Martin Carthy, harking back to the folk boom of the 1960s and 1970s when Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell led the way. So many artists I talk to cite Woody Guthrie as a huge influence, so it was fascinating to see some footage of him in action, and learn more about him as a character.

So, did the documentary makers establish whether folk is the antidote to manufactured music, the new punk, or simply evidence of the enduring appeal of this age-old musical form? Actually it's quite clear that it is all three – and a lot more besides.

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