THE MAGNIFICENT EVANS. (1984) WRITTEN BY ROY CLARKE. CREATED BY RONNIE BARKER. STARRING RONNIE BARKER, SHARON MORGAN, MYFANWY TALOG, WILLIAM THOMAS, DICKIE ARNOLD AND DYFED THOMAS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I was a bit bemused by this six-episode sitcom at first, as it seemed such a departure from what Ronnie Barker usually does, but then Ronnie Barker was an unusually gifted and talented individual who could play whatever character he put his mind to, so maybe there’s nothing so bemusing after all about his creating the persona of Plantaganet Evans, a true individual if ever there was one.
He’s a self-centred, egotistical Welshman living in Wales who takes photographs for a living, but he’s no common or garden snapper. Oh no. He’s an artist, an artiste, for whom conditions have to be ‘just so’ before he can click that shutter. Unappreciated in his time, like most geniuses(!), his business is largely unsuccessful, even though there’s plenty to photograph in such a beautiful spot.
Oh, and he does that old-fashioned photographer thing where he sticks his head under a black cloth before he takes the picture, so he’s clearly not using a crappy disposable camera from Boots in a plastic package, lol. He’d probably puke in rage at the thought of such cheap shoddiness…!
His appearance is extremely flamboyant, as befitting the true artiste. He favours big, wide-brimmed hats, big floppy bows in place of a tie, and velvet suits with a real handkerchief in the breast pocket. Very Oscar Wilde. He might even be wearing a smidgeon of black eyeliner for good measure. He’s also the local agent for a certain brand of Scandinavian wood-burning stove on the side, but he doesn’t make much dosh from that. We know this much because we see the defective stove in action, that’s why…!
So, with whom does he share his life, his home and his life’s work? The answer to all three is the attractive and much younger Rachel Harris, a Welsh lady with lovely curly hair who wears tight pencil skirts with fluffy angora cowl-necked sweaters in pale pastel colours. She journals daily about her life with the great man.
She used to work in the office of a haulage/heavy goods firm before Evans ‘rescued’ her and put her ‘in black stockings,’ having no use at all for the functional cotton underwear she used to favour when she worked in haulage.
Now she’s Evans’s photographer’s assistant and live-in housekeeper-cum-girlfriend-cum-all-round-Girl-Friday. She takes great pains to point out that ‘I have my own apartment,’ though, as she’s deeply uncomfortable at the idea of ‘living in sin’ with a man.
She longs for marriage, both as she actually loves the rascally Evans and also because she wants to formalise their living arrangements in the eyes of the ever-watchful community, but Evans is a commitment-phobic rogue who dangles the carrot of marriage over her head at all times, and always just tantalisingly out of reach.
So, basically, Rachel cooks and cleans for Evans, she runs his business and takes his bookings and she carts around his heavy photography equipment with only a little help from Practically Toothless Willie, Evans’s non-talking, alcoholic chauffeur-cum-handyman, who’ll ‘get the hang of it’ eventually.
She wears the sexy underwear he favours- he’s a leg man who adores the sight of a couple of shapely female pins in black stockings- but what does she ever get back in return? He’s stingy with the housekeeping (she frequently has to dip into her own savings to keep the house afloat) and he won’t commit to a wedding date, although he’s quite happy to be engaged indefinitely. Poor Rachel! She could be an old maid before the smug, self-satisfied git that is Evans ever gets round to naming the day.
Her judgemental, prudish sister Bronwyn and her prim and proper husband Probert, who works for the council, are the people who give Rachel the most trouble about ‘living in sin’ with Evans. They even try to get the new vicar involved at one point.
I love the conversation they have when they’re watching out their bedroom window one day as Rachel climbs awkwardly into Evans’s old-fashioned vintage motor car. The car doors don’t work, you see, so it’s a running joke that Rachel has to yank up her tight pencil skirt in order to climb over the sides, thereby flashing her black stockings and suspenders to all and sundry. Bronwyn heaves a huge sigh from across the street and says sadly: ‘I’m glad our old mum isn’t here to see this.’ ‘Where is she then?’ replies Probert. ‘At the hairdresser’s,’ deadpans Bronwyn mournfully…!
There’s more comedy in ‘the mad cyclist,’ and also in Olwin ‘Home Rule’ O’Toole, a fanatical Welsh ‘freedom fighter’ who loves Rachel and keeps trying to get her to leave Evans and go off with him. ‘I’d have married you in a heartbeat,’ he keeps declaring dramatically, but Rachel isn’t swayed, even though a bird in the hand is always worth two in the bush.
She’s holding out for the roguish scallywag Evans, despite the fact that he’s an incorrigible old flirt who openly eyes up anything in a black stocking, the disgraceful old codger. There are worse places to spend your life than on the delightfully quaint street where they live, on a pretty hill surrounded by the most picturesque Welsh scenery, but whether he’ll ever make an honest woman out of Rachel before either of ’em die is anybody’s guess. Why is he so averse to trying matrimony? I mean, it’s not that hard, surely? He’s bound to ‘get the hang of it’ eventually…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
You can contact Sandra at: