Performance: Season 1, Episode 1

Absolute Hell (5 Oct. 1991)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 128 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 3 critic

Black comedy set in Soho, London, right after WW2. Half of the fun is seeing a slew of very familiar faces kick up their heels as gay men, lesbians, party-girls, drunks, and drag queens.



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Title: Absolute Hell (05 Oct 1991)

Absolute Hell (05 Oct 1991) on IMDb 7.9/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Christine Foskett
Susan Porrett ...
Doris, Christine's sister
Paul Birchard ...
Sylvia Barter ...
Julia Shillitoe
Hugh Marriner
Elizabeth Collier
Eileen Page ...
Mrs. Marriner, Hugh's mother
Gregory Floy ...
Michael Crowley
Maurice Hussey
Sam Mitchum
Moyra Fraser ...
Lettice Willis
William Osborne ...
Cyril Clatworthy
Susan Brown ...
Betty Marsden ...
R. B. Monody


Black comedy set in Soho, London, right after WW2. Half of the fun is seeing a slew of very familiar faces kick up their heels as gay men, lesbians, party-girls, drunks, and drag queens.

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Release Date:

5 October 1991 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Fast and Louche in post-War Soho
26 January 2007 | by (London) – See all my reviews

London is the magnet for those escaping the twitched net curtain and pursed-lipped respectability of the suburbs or provincial dullness. And Soho was the very pole of that magnet. The brilliant, the hopeless, the artist, the writer, the harmlessly perverted, the amiably perpetually drunk could all find comfort, stimulation, companionship and appreciation in Soho's after-hours drinking clubs. Geoffrey Bernard (brilliantly portrayed by Peter O'Toole in "Geoffrey Bernard is Unwell") was just one of its luminaries. Quentin Crisp another. One famous impecunious artist would go from table to table with an old tobacco tin collecting money to pay for her drinks. It was a small, odd world; later overshadowed by its own legends.

At a time when homosexual acts were illegal, Soho offered an entirely non-judgemental welcome to all who would obey its free and easy club social rules. Queer, camp or dyke could and would exchange drinks, anecdotes, smiles and confidences with everyone else. The wonderful late Betty Marsden as the butch R P Monody and her "constant companion" are just two more unusual inhabitants. The Bill Nighy character's obliging indifference to AC/DC polarities seemed though, to a non-expert eye, unlikely. But perhaps not in Soho.

The writing, location and ambiance are incredibly reminiscent of those of Patrick Hamilton yet without his cruelty and viciousness. Here people are generally kind. Nothing very remarkable happens. People come, people go. Outside, a new Labour government is elected. Inside, one person passes away in an undignified but convincingly true to life circumstance. Judi Dench frets. The late Charles Gray is a fish in water. Few people are still around who remember Soho just after the war. "Absolute Hell" seemingly perfectly recreates that world. The cast appear not to perform rather to inhabit it. Bill Nighy's extreme realistic conversational style of acting provides the final convincing evidence that we the audience are there 60 years ago a fly on the smoke-stained walls of the club. That is the magic of the writing and particularly the production.

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