In 1953 William Barrington-Coupe – known as Barrie – spots concert pianist Joyce Hatto and recognizes her talent. They marry with Barrie becoming Joyce’s agent. She makes several records,which achieve some popularity, though her stage fright restricts the success of her concert tours and Barrie,still a wheeler dealer, serves a short prison term for tax evasion. Joyce’s career is curtailed by cancer but,many years later, Barrie discovers that there is some interest in her old recordings,which are selling well online. He thus has the idea for his latest scam. He will pass off recordings made by other pianists as Joyce’s work. Initially shocked Joyce goes along with him and is pleased when critics are fooled. However one has his suspicions and the deception is exposed though Joyce dies before the news breaks, Barry maintaining that she knew nothing of the fraud.
In the later years of her life, Victoria Wood moved back towards the single-play format that was a staple of British television when she first made her name during the 1970s. Wood deservedly won a BAFTA for her starring role in Housewife, 49, but perhaps the most satisfying and adventurous product of this stage in her career was her 2012 film, which she scripted but does not appear in. It’s based on a New Yorker article about the career of Joyce Hatto, the concert pianist whose reputation was ruined thanks to a bizarre fraud perpetrated by her husband. Francesca Annis and Maimie McCoy play the title character at two different stages of her life, though the show is stolen by Alfred Molina as her husband. Molina is a fantastically sensitive, empathetic actor – even his Marvel supervillain was a tragic, relatable sort – and he effortlessly serves as a focus for the script’s discourse on love, celebrity and an artist’s responsibilities to their fans and their loved ones. Wood even manages to include some thoughts on the internet and social media that are more nuanced and less judgmental than a lot of writers half her age have managed. Director Aisling Walsh went on to make the impressive recent BBC adaptation of An Inspector Calls, with David Thewlis.
Watch Loving Miss Hatto online