Crime of their lives
NEW Zealand crime comedydrama Outrageous Fortune has more in common with Packed to the Rafters than Underbelly.
Actor Robyn Malcolm heads the bawdy series as crime-family matriarch Cheryl West, who decides that, after a proud tradition of thievery and larceny, it’s time for her brood to go straight.
That doesn’t please careercriminal husband Wolf (Grant Bowler) and is a mighty challenge for twins Van and Jethro (Antony Starr), ladette daughters Pascalle and Loretta (Siobhan Marshall and Antonia Prebble) and live-at-home grandpa Ted (Frank Whitten).
It’s a set-up that, stripped of its crime backdrop, matches Rafters’ ‘‘generations living under the same roof’’ concept — with lots of added swearing, of course.
Malcolm says the show, in its fourth season, is more about families than it is about crime.
‘‘The criminal nature of Outrageous Fortune is more of a backdrop,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s essentially a family drama/comedy and we have a relationship with crime that is comparatively lighter.
‘‘The wonderful thing is that if you scratch the surface of any family, you’ll find the most complex dramas going on. Everyone knows each other well so the dramas are much more intense.
‘‘Families are where the real madness is. The West family is, I don’t think, that extreme.
‘‘I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with people recently when I’ve asked ‘How was Christmas with your family?’ and their answer was ‘The usual dysfunction’.’’
Rafters concentrates on Anglo, middle-class suburban Sydney, whereas Outrageous Fortune, as the family’s name suggests, seeks to put people who live in the western suburbs under the microscope. It’s something that Malcolm, who grew up in a small town in southwest New Zealand, says anyone can relate to.
‘‘The whole ‘westie’ thing is West Auckland, but what it represents, I think, is white workingclass Kiwis, and they’re everywhere — as in any country. I grew up around those people.’’ Outrageous Fortune, MA15+ Arena, Sunday, 7.30pm Kiwi crime comedy-drama Duration: 30 minutes
Malcolm, who has won awards for her portrayal of Cheryl West (think Julie Rafter crossed with Roberta Williams), says she received clear character notes from the Outrageous Fortune producers before the first series.
‘‘The instruction I got was ‘Don’t smile’,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s such a middle-class thing to smile and ingratiate yourself with people. The Wests aren’t interested in whether people like them or not. There’s a directness — she looks people in the eye and she’s not frightened of conflict.
‘‘There’s that whole notion of the more you feel, the less you show, which I think is a very antipodean thing. We’re not enormously expressive people.
‘‘I think Cheryl’s grown tougher and a bit harder over the years because the battles she’s been fighting have been so intense. There’s a world-weariness to her now. There was an innocence to Cheryl early on, despite the fact that she was married to a career criminal with four kids.
‘‘Because of that fact, she was able to give over a lot of responsibility to Wolf. She was the little woman at home and the fact that she has fought not to be, that has given her a lot of freedom, but in another way has made her less tolerant.
‘‘So she’s hardened up, which is kind of sad but probably true.
‘‘If Outrageous Fortune were to finish, I would love it to finish with Cheryl hanging out the washing in her high heels, still in a dilemma about something. Because that’s how life is — there’s never a point where there’s a happy ending.’’
Robyn Malcolm stars as Cheryl West in Outrageous Fortune.