A stolen kiss… it’s Torvill and Dean as you NEVER saw them: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS on last night’s passionate TV biopic of the ice dance stars.
If woollies had their own Olympic category, the glorious collection of cardies, tanktops and pullovers on display in this delightful period piece would scoop first prize.
There’s nothing more Christmassy than a cosy jumper. And from the moment Jayne Torvill, aged ten, first laid eyes on little Christopher Dean in his chunky green cable-knit, she was smitten.When we think back to 1984, a time when every radio station seemed to be blasting out Ravel’s Bolero on constant rotation, we remember the ice dancers’ indigo costumes – Jane’s skirt in flowing tatters like a Cinderella ballerina, Chris’s shirtsleeves so flouncy that he was in danger of lifting off when he flapped his arms.
But this two-hour biopic, telling their story from first steps on ice to that round of perfect scores in Sarajevo, took an obsessive delight in all their clothes.
We saw Chris wrapping himself in swatches of gold and sapphire nylon, to test how it felt against his skin, but also arriving for practice at the rink in the detachable tie he wore on the beat as a trainee bobby.
And of course it wouldn’t be the 1970s without satin-finish polyester catsuits.
Clothes, or more precisely footwear, even gave us our first glimpse of the duo as children. Chris was hobbling to school in a broken shoe that his dad had mended with Bostik glue and duct tape; Jayne was eyeing a pair of white ice skates.This was all about putting the costume into drama.
In the hands of writer William Ivory, who cut his teeth on Coronation Street, it was also a love story. Torvill and Dean have famously never been lovers: they say the closest they ever came to romance was a tentative teenage snog at the back of the coach on their first competitive trip to Europe.
Ivory showed this, of course, but he also played heavily on the idea that Jayne adored Chris because he took her seriously. Her emotions were important to him – even though he was repressed and defensive, too deeply hurt to be able to trust others after his mother abandoned him in childhood.
This wasn’t spelled out for the first hour. We sensed it slowly, as Jayne looked longingly at her partner while he seemed lost in thought.
It wasn’t until the climax of the story, when they were about to perform the most passionate, even erotic, routine ever seen at the Winter Olympics, that the two were able to ask each other how they could be so close on the ice yet never more than friends in ordinary life.This swell of emotion was inarticulate on purpose. The script did not lack sharp dialogue elsewhere.
My favourite line, one that made me bark with laughter, was delivered by Chris’s first skating partner. Her name was Leanne (Cassie Bradley) and she was furious that he didn’t seem interested in a fumble.
‘I’m glad yer never tried it on with me,’ she snapped. ‘Cos I wouldn’t have let yer – and I let everyone!’
All the supporting cast had at least one smashing line. Dean Andrews, as Chris’s father, introduced his new girlfriend to the boy with the words, ‘This is Betty – she’s like your new mum.’
Jayne’s mother disapproved of her daughter dancing to pop music. ‘Bowie,’ she sniffed, ‘is that the one in the make-up?’
And Anita Dobson, who used to spend her Christmases down the Queen Vic hurling pintpots at Dirty Den, played ice coach Miss Perry, who took her silent boyfriend Norman everywhere.‘He has a Latin heart,’ she cried, ‘he understands the passionate nature.’ Norman just nodded. A loving attention to detail pervaded the whole drama.
Stephen Tompkinson was Jayne’s doting dad, who would lull her to sleep by singing the theme tune from her favourite swashbuckling telly serial, The Flashing Blade. The fact that its title would take on a different significance in her career was just one more clever touch.
Thankfully, the soundtrack didn’t overuse Ravel’s Bolero – a musical version of migraine, played on a clarinet that wishes it had been born a bagpipe. The tune was saved for the end, when director Gillies MacKinnon cut away to archive footage of Torvill and Dean dancing flawlessly at the Olympics.
And we learned what the couple really thought of the music.
‘What was that, it was horrible!’ exclaimed Jayne when she first heard the track. Chris admitted he’d bought it because the library was selling off old LPs for 20p.
That was 20p wisely invested. And for millions of viewers it was a Christmas evening well spent too.