Mary & George

An ambitious mother hatches a plan for her handsome son to seduce King James in a deliciously brash period drama.

Part-romp, part ‘history fiction’, part LGBT conspiracy drama, Mary & George is certainly easy on the eye while it pirouettes and teases its very loose history.

This 7 part British series, created by D.C. Moore (Killing Eve) is based on Benjamin Woolley’s The King’s Assassin and centres on the affair between James VI (England) and I (Scotland) of the 1600s and George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham.

George, played by the boyishly handsome Nicholas Galitzine (Red White & Blue, Cinderella, Handsome Devil), is son of Mary (Julianne Moore), an ambitious widow determined to raise her status by orchestrating sexual pleasures for the King (Tony Curran) with her second son.

The King is well-known for surrounding himself with “well-hung beauty” and participating in orgys in grand rooms. His favourite happens to be the Earl of Somerset (Laurie Davidson), a brash and powerful young man who pleasures the King for his own ambitions.

But the Earl of Somerset is not about to see his position usurped by the King’s latest plaything. He undermines George’s access to the King and ensures he is assigned duties for the lowest of servants. However Mary plots her own chess moves, variously engaged with a local harlot (Niamh Algar), a Lady in Waiting (Nicola Walker), and Francis Bacon (Mark O’Halloran).

All this cavorting takes place amid splendid scenery and Jacobean era costumes, yet director Oliver Hermanus brings a modern sensibility, not dissimilar to previous TV romp The Tudors. There is outrageous grand-standing, soapie plot moves and flashes of nudity.

Julianne Moore is delicious as a conniving, driven, woman moving silently like a puppetmaster. Her brief scenes with Nicola Walker are but one of the pleasures of the series.

Nicholas Galitzine continues to impress with every new project he appears in, demonstrating he is more than just a pretty face. Laurie Davidson takes on the resident villain role with gusto, but you know it’s a losing battle.

There’s a lot to like here with a fine ensemble and a rollercoaster of melodramatic highs and lows. Yet that leaves the mid-section a little wanting, as you await the next outrageous turn either in plot or visual shocks.

Mary & George is no Wolf Hall acting masterclass, and half of it may not even be true, but it knows its audience well and on that front surely delivers.

Dress up, plot your next move and get ready to play.

Mary & George premieres 8:30pm Tuesday on Binge.

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