Dan­ger­ous Roads

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Satur­day, 7.30pm, BBC Knowl­edge This is a trav­el­ogue about the Gu­lag archipelago, as British co­me­di­ans Ed Byrne and Andy Par­sons drive the ‘‘ road of bones’’ across Siberia. It was built by Joseph Stalin’s slave labour­ers, a mil­lion of whom died of dis­ease and star­va­tion, cold and ex­haus­tion. Their bod­ies were left to form part of the road’s sub­stra­tum. The stuff of stand-up this is not. The pair visit long-aban­doned camps where the road gangs sub­sisted — lived is too gen­er­ous a de­scrip­tion — and they pass through towns aban­doned when the heat­ing failed, the ex­ter­nal pipe net­work froze and thou­sands had to flee. It all adds to the im­pact of Byrne and Par­sons’s drive across the tough­est, cold­est coun­try in Siberia in a 15-year-old Nis­san Sa­fari. (The man­u­fac­turer should be pleased — the four-wheel-drive did not miss a beat). Even though the pair were not as alone as pre­sented (who was film­ing them dig them­selves out of snow­drifts, hmm?) it is clear the cold of this coun­try quickly kills, that driv­ers die when en­gines fail or ve­hi­cles are bogged. And a back-up crew does not di­min­ish the dan­ger of nar­row moun­tain roads, nil vis­i­bil­ity in snow­storms and con­fronting enor­mous ve­hi­cles be­yond stop­ping as they glide over the ice. Byrne and Par­sons ap­pear sen­si­ble, sober blokes who know when it is no time for jokes, awed by the land­scape and the fate of the peo­ple who trod their road be­fore. to chron­i­cle the lives of par­ents as their chil­dren grow up, and child­less men and women who won­der what they are miss­ing. They talk, and dance, about their ex­pec­ta­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences and how the lat­ter do not live up to the for­mer.You don’t need to know any­thing about dance to ap­pre­ci­ate the scenes from life the per­form­ers present — an an­guished fa­ther fail­ing to cope with a trou­ble­some child, a young cou­ple ten­ta­tively ex­plor­ing sex. But it is the mono­logues they in­ter­pret, read off­stage, that make the piece. They are the sorts of con­ver­sa­tions we have all been part of, but stripped to the essence and in­ter­preted by the dancers they are con­fronting far more than com­fort­ing. This is no ide­alised ver­sion of fam­ily life, or its ab­sence. A fa­ther laments the way chil­dren’s ex­pe­ri­ences are over-an­a­lysed, ‘‘ SWAT anal­y­sis in Grade One.’’ A woman talks of yearn­ing for moth­er­hood: ‘‘ At 30 you are look­ing for the per­fect man, at 35 you’re look­ing for a man and by 40 you want a child and you don’t care about the man.’’ A mother, up­set and an­gry, lec­tures her preg­nant teenage daugh­ter: ‘‘ Stretch­marks are a badge of hon­our.’’ And a dad talks about the chal­lenges and de­mands of an autis­tic son. There is noth­ing or­di­nary about these or­di­nary lives. where com­mu­ni­ties wade in to slaugh­ter these ‘‘ in­tel­li­gent so­cial an­i­mals’’, for food, they say. Not if Paul Wat­son and his sea shep­herds, who hate the idea of hunt­ing these whales, have any­thing to do with it, but pi­lot whales are not an en­dan­gered species and the lo­cals hate the idea of be­ing bossed about. This episode sets up a con­fronta­tion, a re­play of a stand-off in 1986. This time an­ti­whal­ing ac­tivist Wat­son is in­tent on tac­tics that avoid out­right fights. The sea shep­herds de­ploy sonar buoys that con­fuse the whales and stop them find­ing shal­low wa­ters. Wat­son’s com­mand ship, the Steve Ir­win, is equipped with a he­li­copter and ul­tra­light air­craft as well as fast rub­ber duck­ies for close contact with op­po­nents. He also com­mands an ocean-go­ing tri­maran for quick re­sponse, named for long-time sup­porter Brigitte Bar­dot. But his highly com­mit­ted in­ter­na­tional crew (I heard three Aus­tralian ac­cents) is prob­a­bly his great­est as­set. The pro­gram gives the lo­cals a chance to make their case (who was the woman with the Aus­tralian ac­cent who wants Wat­son to leave the lo­cals alone?), but it seems cer­tain later episodes will fo­cus on di­rect con­flict. Wat­son’s motto, ‘‘ Jus­tice takes prece­dence over the law’’, does not pro­vide much room for com­pro­mise and the peo­ple of the Faroe Is­lands just want him gone.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.