Life in Squares

Life in Squares is a British television mini-series that was broadcast on BBC Two from 27 July to 10 August 2015.[1][2][3] The title comes from Dorothy Parker's witticism that the Bloomsbury Group, whose lives it portrays, had "lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles".[4]

Life in Squares
Written byAmanda Coe
Directed bySimon Kaijser
Composer(s)Edmund Butt
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes3
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)Rhonda Smith
Production location(s)London
Charleston Farmhouse
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Ecosse Films
Tiger Aspect Productions
Original network
Picture format16:9 1080i
Audio formatStereo
Original release27 July (2015-07-27) 
10 August 2015 (2015-08-10)


The three-part serial centres on the close and often fraught relationship between sisters, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, and Vanessa’s sexually complicated alliance with gay artist Duncan Grant as they, and their group of like-minded friends, navigate their way through love, sex and artistic life through the first half of the 20th century.


The series was commissioned by Ben Stephenson and Lucy Richer, and produced by Ecosse Films in association with Tiger Aspect Productions. The executive producers are Lucy Bedford, Amanda Coe, Douglas Rae and Lucy Richer.[5][6] Filming began in August 2014 in London and Charleston Farmhouse.[7][8]


The main roles were played by:[9]

Critical reception

Writing in UK newspaper The Guardian, Lucy Mangan found that, "The drama took a certain effort of will to get into. You just have to accept that you are in a world where people convened salons, and probably did say things like 'Childe Harold is a load of posturing nonsense! It can’t hold a candle to Don Juan, even if the alexandrines are forced to breaking point!'". However, having made this effort Mangan, added: "[…] it’s very, very good. From Phoebe Fox and Lydia Leonard as the loving/warring sisters Vanessa, soon-to-be-Bell, and Virginia, slightly-later-to-be-Woolf, around whose increasingly strained relationship the story essentially revolves, to the doctor in a single scene realising his patient (the painter Duncan Grant) is 'an invert', the performances are uniformly wonderful (though Ed Birch as Lytton Strachey has so far the best part and the best time). And the script – once you take that linguistic leap of faith – is glorious. 'That’s what they do,' muses Virginia as she and Vanessa ponder the proclivities of the men in their house and lives. 'Exclude us. From clubs. Schools. Orifices.' Though on the last, Vanessa comes to disagree. She marries the uninverted Clive Bell and sends her sister a letter. 'Copulation a tremendous success!' Attagirl".[10]

In The Independent, Ellen E Jones was less impressed, writing: "The romantic entanglements of this set are so complicated that there is an undeniable achievement in laying them out clearly, as writer Amanda Coe has done here. Alas, the work's the thing and while this opening episode contained all the gossip, it conveyed none of the depth of thought or artistic feeling that must ultimately justify our interest (if any) in these people". She concluded by citing both BBC Radio 4’s parody of the Bloomsbury Group, Gloomsbury, and the "excellent" BBC Four documentary How to Be Bohemian, as having "advanced an alternative view of the set as, essentially, self-indulgent ninnies, cosseted by their wealth. If you've had the pleasure of either programme it would have been especially difficult to take this new drama seriously".[4]

The BBC was criticised for not warning about the explicit gay content at the beginning of the programme, and their response was as follows: "The episode in question did in fact carry an announcement before the programme started warning viewers that it contained strong language and scenes of a sexual nature. We approach our portrayal of homosexual relationships in exactly the same way as we do heterosexual relationships and the content of the programme was handled with extreme care by the programme makers".[11] Consequently there are no plans to distinguish between "explicit gay content" and "explicit (hetero)sexual content" in future programmes.


Internationally, the series premiered in Australia on 27 October 2015 on BBC First.[12]


  1. "BBC - BBC announces 3x60 films by Amanda Coe, Life In Squares - Media Centre". Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  2. Singh, Anita (28 February 2015). "Bloomsbury set laid bare in 'intimate' new BBC drama". Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  3. "Life in Squares and Vita & Virginia are bringing the Bloomsbury group to a new generation". 6 March 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  4. Jones, Ellen E (27 July 2015). "Life in Squares, BBC2 - TV review: Self-indulgent and over-sexed, the Bloomsbury set were hard to take seriously". The Independent. London. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  5. "BBC - Phoebe Fox, Lydia Leonard, Sam Hoare and James Norton to star in Life In Squares for BBC Two - Media Centre". Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  6. Designers, PFD - Website and Graphic. "Life in Squares - Ecosse Films". Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  7. "BBC Two's Life In Squares confirms cast". 18 August 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  8. "Visit BBC drama Life in Squares' main location in Charleston". The Argus. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  9. "BBC2: Life in Squares: Credits – Episode 1". BBC Online. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  10. Mangan, Lucy (28 July 2015). "Life in Squares review: 'absurd, beautiful characters in a ridiculously golden world'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  11. "Lucia Fortucci, BBC Complaints,, 29 August 2015"
  12. Purcell, Charles (23 October 2015). "New This Week (Oct 26): Chicago Fire, Bear Grylls, Halloween, RWC finals and live sport". The Green Room. Archived from the original on 23 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
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