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92 The Doofus Omnibus

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the same sentence. So, there has to be something a bit different

s tephen Poliakoff’ and ‘period drama’ are rarely ever muttered in

going on for the award-winning writer/director to push actors into old costumes rather than into the bold dialogue and strained emotional states that he normally requests his ensemble to inhabit.

And different is certainly what The Lost Pn’nce is. While the suffragettes locked themselves to the gates of various regal residences and the politicians supped mulled wine and pondered the rights and wrongs of going to war, one small boy was creating a bit of history for himself within the early 20th century corridors of monarchic power. ‘lt’s the story of George V’s youngest child John, who was an epileptic and had learning difficulties,’ explains Poliakoff. ‘Halfway through his short life, he was shut away from the world. Very little has been written about this boy, not even a chapter on him anywhere, so it did require a considerable degree of

detective work.’

The kind of exhaustive research that Poliakoff brings to bear on all his literary, theatrical and fllmic projects meant he had to conduct protracted

negotiations with the Royal Archive at Windsor. When he was eventually allowed to see the letters written by Prince John in his isolation, he had an overwhelming feeling that not many people had seen them before. While Poliakoff has an undoubted love of reflecting upon the past, his stories are almost exclusively set in the contemporary day. History is always seen over the shoulders of his characters. Here, he faces the difficulty of getting viewers enticed into his story due to those fateful words: period drama. ‘ln Perfect

It’s a little like Charles and Di locking up Prince Harry were he to have shown the mildest hint of dyslexia

Strangers, there were some period flashbacks which involved children in World War II and I thought that was a very potent way of looking at history. As soon as people put on the clothes, and the carriages are going past, everything starts to resemble everything else.’

Poliakoff’s way round the dilemma was to show the great historical dramas of the 20th century’s first quarter through a lonely child’s lens. ‘I never thought I would ever tackle something like this, but the story about a boy staring at the adult world getting completely out of control just kept

haunting me.’

And you too may end up being spooked by this story of one boy’s disability and the regal solution to keep him away from the outside world. It’s a little like Charles and Di locking up Prince Harry were he to have shown the mildest hint of dyslexia. In The Lost Prince, Miranda Richardson and Tom Hollander play the icy Queen Mary and fiery King George V, caught between doing what’s right for their son and what they feel would best serve the country. The tale is aided by an impressive ensemble cast


93 Eternal Darkness

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94 Men in Black II

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including Gina McKee as John’s nanny and Michael Gambon, briefly prominent as a world-weary King Edward VII.

But none are better than the two boys who play John at various ages: Daniel Williams and Matthew Thomas. They get the epileptic fits down to a tee but more crucially bring a blank intelligence to their roles as alien souls within a society that allowed no room for psychological ‘error'. Moved you will be. Disturbed you should be. (Brian Donaldson)

1(3 30 Jan 2003 THE LIST 89