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Cupboard love

27 January 2017

BBC/KUDOS/NICK BRIGGS

Deception: in Apple Tree Yard (BBC1), Emily Watson plays a genetic scientist who embarks upon an affair after giving evidence in Parliament

Deception: in Apple Tree Yard (BBC1), Emily Watson plays a genetic scientist who embarks upon an affair after giving evidence in Parliament

I DO not know if the Church Commissioners keep statistics on the number of seductions carried out in consecrated premises, but at least the chapel of St Mary Undercroft, at the Palace of Westminster, worked its magic for this particular purpose on the chief characters of Apple Tree Yard (BBC1, Sunday).

To mitigate distress, I can report that, first, they were not allowed to film on those premises, substituting another chapel; and, second, the deed was actually committed in the confines of the Emily Pankhurst memorial broom cupboard.

A genetic scientist, Yvonne Carmichael (played by Emily Wat­son), her life adorned with every gift of successful middle-class intelli­gent­sia — achieving husband, gorgeous house, grown-up children — finds that a session giving evidence to a Select Commit­tee has this somewhat unexpected coda, as a handsome anonymous stranger shows her a side of parlia­mentary life that she had hardly expected.

It develops into a passionate affair, but with even greater ele­ments of deception than such sordid carryings-on always bring with them. Who is this man? Is she floundering in waters deeper than common-or-garden adultery? And, at the annual office party, a col­league uses his uncovering of the affair to initiate disgust­ing rape.

As this first episode was framed with her appearance in the dock of the Old Bailey, we know that she is going to fall much further. For the moment, the voyeuristic aspects are kept in check by the plot, which teeters between the preposterous and the only-too-believable — and the acting is terrific. And Apple Tree Yard? That is the Westminster alleyway where they throw caution to the winds and indulge in a “knee-trembler”. You will appreciate the theological framework: Yvonne has now, with a vengeance, tasted the forbidden fruit.

In Meet the Trumps: From immi­grant to President (Channel 4, Tues­day of last week), Matt Frei led us on a tale of three generations. In a time of want, Donald Trump’s grandfather absconded, at 17, from Bavaria to seek his fortune in the United States. He rode the wave of late 19th-century expansion, setting up a hotel that helped relieve the prospectors of their earnings by providing liquor, gambling, and women, then moving into real-estate in burgeoning New York.

His son, Fred, exploited the policies of successive liberal presid­en­­cies to use public money to build houses for workers (and pocket a fortune). His eldest son, Fred Jr, failed — by improving accommoda­tion in the apartment block he was managing — at the first hurdle, and became an alcoholic, leaving the path open for his brother, Donald.

Inculcated with an ethic of ruthless success, he has fulfilled all the promise of his forebears. The sorry progress is noteworthy as being a ghastly shadow of the great American dream: how anyone can carve out a path from rags to riches.

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