‘Apple Tree Yard’ Episode 1 review: Emily Watson is magnificent

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“I can’t plead biology. Sex may be an animal pleasure but adultery, I’m discovering, is a human one.”

Westminster is a place that has seen many historic speeches, political scandals and let’s be honest, a few extra marital quickies too.

It is in these famous halls Yvonne (Emily Watson) meets a confident stranger determined to be her tour guide with benefits and in a broom cupboard where feminist icon Emily Wilding Davison once stowed away, they are soon in the throes of passion. You can interpret your own patriarchal message at play on that one. Thankfully though, Ed the Duck doesn’t intrude on them and nor do they feel the urge for a post-coital rendition of the Newsround theme tune. Missed opportunities there.

From the outside Yvonne leads a comfortable life as a respected scientist with a nice house, husband and daughter but a niggling suspicion that her spouse Gary (Mark Bonnar) is sleeping with a younger model is perhaps just one of the motives of her affair. In order to let her feelings out, she spews her thoughts onto her computer declaring “Sex with you is like being eaten by a wolf” which, despite its odd imagery, shows how she’s been taken over by an animalistic desire.

Before long, they are conducting more naughty tours of London’s public spaces. Despite the claustrophobic places favoured by our dark, handsome stranger, the look of Apple Tree Yard is in complete contrast with vivid colours and open spaces. It all looks beautiful except for the love scenes which seem purposefully unsexy.

The fact that he’s barely seen her body during these sessions understandably gives her paranoia (“I’m middle aged and my body looks like a Jelly Baby.”) However, Jelly Babies contain lots of sugar and he seems to need the rush.

There does seem a lack of connection to the protaganists, but maybe that’s because they are playing a game, putting on characters and not being themselves. Neither is there an understanding of exactly why Yvonne is falling for ‘X’ as Chaplin’s character feels incredibly straight laced.

It is still a magnificent performance by Emily Watson, caught as she is between passion and guilt. How refreshing it is too for a woman over the age of forty to be portrayed as a sexual being.

Blind alleys:

There are lots of foot shots. Is this appealing to a niche fetish or does it serve as some sort of hidden message or metaphor?

Is ‘X’ really a spook or is there something more sinister at play?

Was he looking at himself in the mirror more than he was looking at Yvonne?

And does that mean he’s actually choosing to perform in front of cameras that are working?

Why doesn’t Yvonne ever ask for his name?

Apple Tree Yard is an actual place. How long before there are copycat fumblings?

The shocking end to the episode poses more questions than answers. Is Yvonne in court for retaliating against the assaulter? Or will ‘X’ indirectly pay for her creepy workmate’s actions?

Aired at 9pm on Sunday 22 January 2017 on BBC One.

Order Apple Tree Yard on DVD on Amazon here.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…

Read Michael Lee’s blog here.