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Shocking new erotic drama Little Birds sees dominatrix urinate on client

A shocking new Sky Atlantic drama sees gay aristocrats romping on beaches and  a dominatrix urinating on a client in graphic sex scenes.

Six-part series Little Birds is loosely based on a collection of short stories by Anaïs Nin follows troubled American heiress Lucy Savage, played by Juno Temple, who arrives in the febrile, bohemian Moroccan port of Tangier in 1955. 

In one shocking scene of the period drama, a kinky dominatrix called Cherifa Lamour, played by Yumna Marwan, can be seen strangling and urinating on a client in a gas mask. 

But the realities of controversial author Anaïs’ life are almost as extraordinary, with the author marrying two men and living a double life which was only exposed after her death.

Her biographer Deidre Blair told The Telegraph: ‘[Anaïs] would set up these elaborate façades in Los Angeles and in New York, but it became so complicated that she had to create something she called the lie box.’

Anaïs was a French-Cuban writer, who claimed to have been sexually abused by her father from the age of nine.

She began writing graphic letters to her estranged father from the age of 11, with topics including abortions, incest and affairs, and continued to do so throughout her adult life.

She went on to write erotic literature as a joke as a teenager after quitting high school in New York and moving to Paris.

But the author lived a wild and sensational life herself, with Anaïs having multiple affairs and romping with John Steinbeck and Lawrence Durrell despite marrying banker and artist Hugh Parker Guiler. 

She became a bigamist at the age of 44 when marrying her second husband, actor Rupert Pole – 16 years her junior – without divorcing her first husband, banker Hugh Guiler.         

They settled in Los Angeles, where she wrote and played housewife while her first husband thought she was at a ‘rest ranch’. 

She went on to tell complex lies about her life, with Blair writing: ‘She had this absolutely enormous purse and in the purse she had two sets of checkbooks. 

‘One said Anaïs Guiler for New York and another said Anaïs Pole for Los Angeles. 

‘She had prescription bottles from California doctors and New York doctors with the two different names. And she had a collection of file cards.’

Eventually, she became bored with her double life and in 1966, annulled her marriage to Rupert, spurred on by the fact both of her husbands tried to claim her as a dependent on their federal tax returns. 

She continued to live with Rupert until she died of cervical cancer in 1977, before which she was granted forgiveness by her first husband. 

It was only after she died that her bigamy came to light with two obituaries listing different husbands.  

She has been hailed as one of the first feminists and backed by the literary avant-garde, she wrote several novels, short stories and journals. 

Little Birds was written in the 1940s but only published in 1979, two years after her death, with 13 stories in it written as a commission for an unnamed male client.

The new Sky series, which debuted earlier this week, sees Juno playing Lucy, who is put on tranquilisers to prevent her from rebelling against her strict arms manufacturer father. 

When it’s suggested she marries Lord Hugo, who lives in Tangier and who Lucy once met at a ball, she quickly accepts to escape both her father and her alcoholic mother. 

But marriage to Hugo quickly turns out to be not as it seems. He’s a gay man in love with another. All Lucy knows is he’s not interested in her sexually. 

Confused and upset, she throws herself into life in Tangier, then an International Zone – an area administered by several foreign powers, including in this case France, Spain and the UK – and a melting pot of spies and criminals. 

It’s some time after Hugh marries Lucy that he realises how hurt she is at having a husband who’ll never love her in the way she wants to be loved, and who only married her for her father’s money.

It’s at a nightclub that Lucy meets the third main character in the drama, Cherifa, played by Lebanese-American actress Yumna in her first English-speaking role. 

Initially Cherifa, who is even desired by the French governor of Morocco, is deliberately not political. 

But when she sees a young nationalist Moroccan being whipped to death by a French soldier it changes her. 

During the episode, viewers watch her having sex with a client before urinating on him as part of their game.

And in another shocking moment, Lucy is shocked upon hearing a woman discussing achieving the perfect orgasm and feeling sexually aroused by watching a man being hanged.

Actress Nina Sosanya, who plays singer Marcella in the drama, tells Lucy it was ‘holding onto life while death was passing’ and her ‘fear turned to pleasure’ in the moment.

The character of Lucy is an amalgamation of several characters in Nin’s Little Birds collection, while Cherifa was just a tiny part in a story called The Queen. 

Speaking about her role in the drama, Juno revealed: ‘I first read Little Birds when I was 17 on a plane journey.

‘It was my introduction to this world. It really opened my eyes to a new way of writing and what real eroticism is. 

‘In a funny way, I think Lucy is on that same journey of discovery in this show. She has so many things going on inside her. It’s like a bubble bath where the bubbles keep coming up but she can’t let any of them out.

‘She falls head first into this wondrous universe when she sees Cherifa get up on a stage in a nightclub and act like she’s stronger than all the men in the room. It’s something Lucy learns from her.

‘Lucy starts off as this little bird of paradise who’s there to be looked at. By the end she has escaped her cage. 

‘The show is really about people getting to know themselves and be OK with it, even if they’re not who they necessarily thought they were or who they wanted to be.’ 

She explained: ‘There’s an Anaïs Nin quote we kept going back to – it was on the opening page of our scripts and it works for each character: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”’

‘Everyone does blossom but their journeys are not always easy, and none of the characters blossom as you think they might. 

Meanwhile Yumna explained that she met with a dominatrix to prepare for her role, saying: ‘To prepare for the role I met a dominatrix in London to look at the instruments she used, and understand her relationship with her clients.’ 

‘I was lucky enough to have one of her clients volunteer for me to flog his behind. He came into the room and I did it!’  

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