The Alan Clark Diaries Review

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Dramatisation based on the diaries of the rogue MP for Plymouth South


When this series debuted on BBC4, it proved to be one of the channel’s rare ratings successes. It’s not hard to see why. Conservative minister Alan Clark’s diaries, which covered his time in Thatcher’s Britain, were deliciously unguarded. He referred to Michael Heseltine as "odious", while Mrs. Thatcher was "so beautiful" but unshaggable. Luckily, practically everything else under-25 was, as his headline-making affairs revealed.

This faithful adaptation is almost all in voiceover — John Hurt acts out his role of Alan Clark to the running soundtrack of his thoughts. Jenny Agutter is his rock of a wife and does an astounding job with barely any dialogue. But it’s far from dull.

Clark is good company, and comes across as a sound politician — slightly entrenched in the old ways, but at least honest about his faults. It would make for an incredible satire if it wasn’t true.

Real news clips inter-cut the drama just to bring that home and, as the last of the six episodes reaches its inevitable conclusion, the intrusion of reality is even more poignant. For Clark, death spelled a premature end to a captivating life, and a premature end to what (if fictional) would have deserved a second series.