A television drama based on the lives of the Bloomsbury set, including author Virginia Woolf, starts tonight (Monday 27th July) on BBC2 at 9pm.
"Life in Squares", a three-part drama, explores the relationships between Woolf and her husband Leonard Woolf, and their artistic and intellectual friends, including the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, authors E M Forster and David "Bunny" Garnett, art critics Roger Fry and Clive Bell, the biographer Lytton Strachey and the economist John Maynard Keynes.
Episode one is set in 1905 and shows the first forays of the Stephen sisters – who later became Woolf and Bell – into bohemian life. The episode also reveals Grant’s affairs with Strachey and Keynes.
A Guardian review of the show said "Life in Squares" promises to be a “a quietly involving affair”, whilst the Independent said the examination of the group’s sex lives is fascinating. “A century on, and even after Sixties’ free love, the acceptance of homosexuality, and a rise in visibility for polyamorous or alternative relationship structures, what the Bloomsburies managed is still rare. And, dare I say it, quite impressive in its bravery,looking for honest ways to live and love beyond mere convention.”
Vanessa’s granddaughter, Virginia Nicholson, told the Guardian she was initially wary of the idea for the show when approached by its producers.
“The idea of the Bloomsbury Group gets a mixed response and my slight concern is that the drama will play into a perception that they were self-indulgent, bed-hopping poseurs, whereas in fact they were a group of people who between them changed the cultural face of Britain,” she said.
She said she found the final drama “quite moving”, because “I am looking at my grandmother, whom I remember well. They have brought out her conflicts and her difficulties on screen, and it is compelling”.
"Life in Squares" - which gets its title from the saying that the Bloomsbury Group “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles” - stars Lydia Leonard as Virginia, Phoebe Fox as Vanessa and James Norton as Duncan Grant [pictured].