BBC continues to woo lesbians, adapts another Sarah Waters novel


Every couple of days I get an email from one of my fellow American lesbians asking me to stop saying British television is better than American television, and I always email back and say, “I will do that — as soon as British television stops being better than American television.” And, once again, that day is not today. Because today, the BBC announced that it is going to adapt Sarah WatersThe Night Watch into a 90-minute movie.

I’m not sure I gave that introduction a proper amount of exclamation; let me try again. BBC and Sarah Waters! The team that brought us Fingersmith and Tipping The Velvet — half the reason every British gay knows she’s gay — are making a movie out of my favorite Waters’ novel!

If you’re unfamiliar with The Night Watch the best way I can describe it is The Chronicles of Wartime London: The Lesbian, The Blitz and the Marriage Bureau. I’m totally serious; it’s just like the C.S. Lewis classic, only instead of finding the magical land of Narnia during World War II like the Pevensie kids, the four main characters in The Night Watch find the magical land of Sappho.

In America we talk a lot about the labor barriers that were broken down for women during World War II, Rosie the Riveter and all that. The Night Watch explores the social barriers that were broken down during World War II, and how young women of marrying age weren’t forced to marry, and so they were free to explore their sexuality. It’s poignant and persistent, and completely worthy of a film adaptation.

The novel is nonlinear, opening in 1947 and then flashing back to the middle of the Blitz, where Kay (Anna Maxwell Martin), Helen (Claire Foy), Viv (Jodie Whittaker) and Duncan (Harry Treadaway) begin their journeys together.

Paula Milne wrote the screenplays for The Virgin Queen and The Politician’s Wife — two more of my favorites! — and has adapted Waters’ novel. In the press release she said, “One of the themes which attracted me to Sarah Waters’ delicate and haunting novel The Night Watch is its theme of invisibility – how in the Second World War, under the deathly mantle of darkness as the air raid sirens wailed, her characters found an invisible arena to explore their sexuality.”

The Night Watch starts filming this week, and our GreatLezBritain gals Sarah and Lee already have an interview lined up with Sarah Waters and they’re going to take a good look at the cast, so stay tuned for that!

How excited are you for The Night Watch?

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