The White Queen episode (1×08) “The King is Dead” – MVA Revealed
This week’s winner is my favourite performer from the series. It’s finally time to honour her with an MVA!
I first saw Amanda Hale in BBC’s Ripper Street and knew she was something special. With her piercing eyes and strong jaw she was captivating to watch, so I was overjoyed to hear of her casting in The White Queen. And it’s a gift of a part – Lady Margaret Beaufort is villainous, sour, dour, bold, intelligent, blindly faithful and oddly likable all in one! US critics have taken to her less than reviewers in the UK, it’s true, but for me there’s no denying her conviction in the role. She’s been a consistent performer since her first appearance in episode one. Yes, it’s long overdue, but this week the MVA goes to The White Queen’s Amanda Hale!
“That Bible is consecrated!”
Amanda Hale is often breathless at the anticipation of developments, and huddling from the cold like a wounded animal. It is this great mix of ambition and forwardness with vulnerability that makes Margaret such an engaging character, when she could come across as a generic villain. She is almost always calm, even when one of her husbands are shouting at her, railing against events. With her striking looks and upright posture, Margaret Beaufort is an icon of the series – and all thanks to Amanda Hale.
But it gets better than this. The sequence in which Margaret’s possessions are being ransacked and Hale gets progressively worked up… until they hit upon her consecrated Bible, is one of the best scenes in The White Queen. Her blubbering finger pointing and shivering with fear that her faith is being sullied are affecting even to an atheist. Her eyes well up with gratitude when they relent, and her chin wrinkled, wringing every last potential emotion out of the scene. I cannot praise it enough. For this scene alone she would deserve the MVA but, of course, there is more afoot.
Margaret v. Elizabeth
The White Queen is all about the women’s war, and that finally came to the fore when Margaret arrived in Elizabeth’s court – under Elizabeth’s nose! – a few weeks back. I was slightly worried she would be underused from here on in, restricted to wandering the courtly corridors, bitching in the shadows, but any failure on the writers’ part is turned into a strength by Amanda Hale.
As the script makes parallels between the two characters, Hale reflects their similarities in her performance. She is calm and brisk just like the White Queen, Rebecca Ferguson. They’re both borderline witches and they know, probably too well, what they want. The scene in which they talk, either sides of the brick alleyway, is a real gem. She can spout exposition quickly and make it sound like poetry, but above all, she can act completely genuine to a character whilst making it obvious to the audience that she is definitely not genuine. “I may be reading too much into it,” she says, dark eyes staring. That is a rare gift in an actor, and that makes fellow performers like Ferguson raise their game in response.
Their partnership is excellent, as is Margaret’s partnership with Lord Stanley (Rupert Graves). They gallop along walkways with a real urgency, pulling along a patchy episode.
Readers of my blog will know that I wasn’t the biggest fan of episode 8, particularly the start, but that’s what’s so great about Amanda Hale: she is something fantastic to watch, even if the set is crumbling around her and the other actors are asleep.
If every week could have been an Amanda Hale MVA week then it would have been. The hilarious scene in episode 7 where she asks God for a sign and then Elizabeth’s baby gets stuck… then the scene where she holds her enemy’s dead child… her moment of absolute divinity… her scenes with Henry Stafford… her flourishing performance in episode 3 when she starts eating again because things are going her way… all the way back to her very first appearance towards the end of episode 1. Resolute and captivating from the start. A very well-deserved MVA, but will she win again…?