Show name: Beecham House
Release date: 2019
Genre: Period drama
Starring: Tom Bateman, Dakota Blue Richards
Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Length: 6 episodes of 45 minutes
Beecham House is a lavish period drama set in 1795 in Moghul India.
John Beecham (Tom Bateman) is a widower, though we have to wait some time for him to be honest enough with his family to learn that.
John married the daughter of the Maharaja of Kalyan (Denzil Smith) and they had a son, August (Shona and Sienna Oberoi), the Maharaja’s heir. His wife has died, and John is now attempting to rebuild his life in Delhi.
John buys a large house which is lavishly furnished and decorated. August and his wet nurse, bodyguard and nanny arrive soon after.
John invites his mother Henrietta (Lesley Nicol) to visit him and is surprised when she arrives with a young lady in tow.
Violet Woodhouse (Bessie Carter) is immediately introduced to John as his future wife, selected and approved by his mother.
However, John has his own ideas about remarrying, having recently met Margaret Osborne (Dakota Blue Richards) who is working in Delhi as a governess.
The first plot strand is John’s mysterious personal life. He is tight-lipped about his son and the identity of his wife, which is understandable given that she was murdered by the Maharaja’s enemies.
This causes immense confusion among Margaret, Henrietta and Violet.
John’s commercial life generates the second plot strand. He needs a licence to trade from the emperor Shah Alam II (Roshan Seth).
A heavy bribe in the form of a wonderful gift from the empress is required and John’s servant Gopal is murdered trying to bring the gold statue to Delhi.
The British were present in India largely via the East India Company at this time. John’s wayward brother Daniel (Leo Suter) is a soldier with the EIC who wreaks havoc in John’s home during a brief stay. This forms the third plot strand.
John faces enemies on all sides. The physical risk to his son, the attacks on his business as he attempts to gain a licence and betrayal from someone close to him keep the drama moving right up until the end.
Beecham House mixes a focus on domestic tension with the trading concerns that led Britain and France to jostle for influence with the Moghuls. Violence is never far from the surface. The tempestuous nature of John’s personal life coupled with Daniel’s disruptive behaviour at home gave it a somewhat soapy feel, but this was successfully balanced by the scenes set in royal palaces which were dealing with the trade situation.
Tom Bateman is always a joy to watch, and the supporting cast were a fascinating mix of famous Indian actors and well-known English ones. I loved the beautiful locations and amazing costumes. The colours of both were so vivid.
The drama has six episodes and a second season hasn’t emerged. The story could easily have extended over more than one season, so I haven’t entirely lost hope.
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