Tipping the Velvet (2002)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Drama, Romance
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Set in the 1890's, tells the lesbian love affair between male impersonator music hall star Kitty Butler and Nan Astley.

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Series cast summary:
 Nan Astley (3 episodes, 2002)
 Kitty Butler (3 episodes, 2002)
 Diana Lethaby (2 episodes, 2002)
 Florence Banner (2 episodes, 2002)
Alexei Sayle ...
 Charles Frobisher (2 episodes, 2002)
John Bowe ...
 Walter Bliss (2 episodes, 2002)
 Zena Blake (2 episodes, 2002)
 Woman with Cigar (2 episodes, 2002)
Carl Chase ...
 Corder (2 episodes, 2002)
Janet Henfrey ...
 Mrs. Jex (2 episodes, 2002)
 Jimmy Burns (2 episodes, 2002)
 Mrs. Denby (2 episodes, 2002)
Sara Stockbridge ...
 Dickie (2 episodes, 2002)
 Singer (2 episodes, 2002)


Dramatised from Sarah Waters' acclaimed debut novel, "Tipping the Velvet" tells the story of Nancy Astley (Rachael Stirling), a young girl who works as cook and waitress in her Father's seaside restaurant - that is until she witnesses the extraordinary performance of a new-to-town male impersonator - Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes) - and begins to undergo a complete life transformation. Suddenly whipped up - and quickly flung down - by her love affair with Kitty, she experiences both euphoria and deep disillusion as she embarks on a seven-year journey of self-discovery - finally realizing that a life of sensation just isn't enough. Written by Kanji

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

9 October 2002 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Besant el vellut  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


(3 parts)

Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


As Nan Astley explains to Florence Banner in the final episode, "Tipping the Velvet" was a Victorian euphemism for cunnilingus. See more »


The roses Kitty gives out in her act are obviously artificial. But later when Nan shows Kitty she kept the rose she received from her, the rose is wilted. See more »


Kitty Butler: Like a mermaid.
See more »


Featured in The Story of the Costume Drama: The Stars (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

Exquisite and gorgeous!
7 September 2004 | by (León, Spain) – See all my reviews

I am getting obsessed by it, playing the DVD over and over. And it is not because of the lesbian love story, nor because of the physical relationship neither. It's about the tenderness and care with which the whole thing is done. You obviously can notice that in the script itself, even in the rawer moments there's certain hope. But also in the music (the melodies are so sweet), the photography (all this wine like and golden tones for indoor scenes), the so fine decoration and set design (theatres and back stages), those little sounds added (hoses running, opera voices ..), those visual metaphors (burning fondue for Kitty's jealousy, empty oyster shells swirling in the waves as Nan meets life ..) …etc..

To me the most beautiful concept is the protagonist personal and sentimental growth, how she becomes an adult by finding love and life. About this, an outstanding detail is Nan's expression and tone of voice. There's one scene in first episode: Kitty and Nan are in Nan's room at Nan's parents, Nan takes the rose Kitty gave to her in the theatre from a drawer and says: 'Remember when you gave me this?' .. The tone in which the sentence is said is so wonderful, it express so much thrill, admiration, delight and most of all innocence. This is what the first episode is about, Nan and her innocence and childhood lost… something left in the sea waves of her home town shore where she was an oyster. But in the second and third episodes she looses this purity in her voice, as she's becoming an adult in all senses. She sounds stronger and more secure... the oyster opens.

This leads me to talk about Rachael's awesome work, all these details are not only shown in her voice but in her acting. And what is more, she not only acts great all the way long but also she sings lovely! The rest of the actresses are wonderful too .. Anna Chancellor's Diana still scares me ;) What to say about magnetic Kitty (whoah Keeley!) and also Jhodi May builds a so very nice good home-loving girl. The actors are quite good too, including baby Cyril ;-)

Another good feature to point out is the rhythm of the episodes development. We can see Kitty and Nan's debut on stage at the same time that all their previous rehearsals, and also Nan's cooking and cleaning at Flo's at the same time that she recovers emotionally from wandering the streets. All this action together prevents the episodes from slow down and from loosing the attention.

But of course this story is a tale, in which the protagonist suffers but at the end wins, there is no point in looking for resemblances with real life as life is much more complicated than a tale. She even triumphs at speaking in the socialist rally saving Flo's brother from stage fright. And I think choosing one girl instead of the other pretended to be a happy end … personally I would definitively have chosen the other, no doubt at all ;-D

I've found a soundtrack at amazon.co.uk but it doesn't include the songs the girls sing at stage .. anyone know where to find them?

Thanks for reading

60 of 65 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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