Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

1990 - United Kingdom

It is no exaggeration to say the Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit was a groundbreaking piece of television. First airing on the BBC in 1990 (and later released as a BBC audiobook read by the main actress Charlotte Coleman that same year), this dramatisation of Jeanette Winterson's 1985 novel of the same name is a devastating tale of one girl's power to overcome neglect and often violent prejudice.

What made Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit especially hard-hitting is the fact that it was based on Winterson's own life; the main character in the TV adaptation, Jess (or Jeanette in the book), is a representation of Winterson herself. Growing up in a religious household, Winterson like Jess, was chastised and cruelly punished by her own family and the wider community for her sexuality as a lesbian (though many of the more explicit scenes of lesbian sex in the novel are cut in the television adaptation). Set to a haunting score of church music, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit was a deeply moving and brilliantly acted depiction of a very personal story - a story that continues to change the lives of people who come across it today. 

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

The role of Jess is a demanding one, and Coleman (who was 21 when she played the role of 16 year old Jess) managed to bring to it a mix of openness and bravery, as well as a sense of naivety and hope in the world that never gets lost despite the prejudice she faces from a community that quite literally attempts to exorcise her of her sexuality. Geraldine McEwan, who won a BAFTA for Best Actress for her appearance in the series, was also widely praised for her depiction of Jess's mother: a lesser performer may have played the older woman as nothing more than a lurid cartoon villain, but McEwan brought humanity and even humour to the role. The series itself won a BAFTA for Best Drama, but it is not just the plot and the acting that make it so compelling. Throughout, surprising camera angles make the everyday world seem strange: the series opens, for instance, with the camera veering through a playground, approaching what should be entertaining rides with a sense of unease and zooming in on the faces of people enjoying themselves until they seem grotesque. It is in the camerawork, too, that much of the power of the drama lies.

New generations of viewers continue to be wowed by this vintage classic, and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is highly recommended to anyone wishing to see a humorous, sophisticated telling of the ways in which the darkest and most hopeful sides of human nature can intertwine. Those who fall in love with Winterson's personal bravery and her storytelling style may also like to read her award-winning autobiography, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal.

Published on January 16th, 2019. Written by L Salzman (May 2018) for Television Heaven.

Read Next...

Twin Peaks

A 17-year old homecoming queen is murdered and the FBI send an officer to investigate.

Also released in 1990

Educating Marmalade

1980s children's sitcom written by Andrew Davies which revolves round Marmalade Atkins - 'The Worst Girl in the World'

Also starring Charlotte Coleman

keeping up appearances

Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet), who spends her entire time trying to climb the local social ladder, much to the dismay of her long suffering husband Richard.

Also released in 1990

One Foot In The Grave

The exploits of a pensioner and his long-suffering wife in their battle against the trials of modern life.

Also released in 1990

Fortunes of War

At a cost of £6.5 million, Fortunes of War was, at the time, the most expensive BBC series ever made.

Also tagged British Drama

Danger UXB

Tense drama about a bomb disposal division of the Army in war torn London during the 1940s.

Also tagged British Drama

Waiting for God

Diana and Tom are two cantankerous residents at a retirement home who keep the staff, especially slimy manager Harvey, very much on their toes.

Also released in 1990

Budgie

Cheeky cockney and loveable rogue Ronald 'Budgie' Bird. Budgie was a small time crook, a petty thief, a chancer who always dreamed of getting rich but mainly had to content himself with the slimmest of pickings.

Also tagged British Drama

The Baron

An antiques dealer works in an informal capacity as an agent for British Diplomatic Intelligence.

Also tagged British Drama