TV & Au­dio

Sound and screen re­views

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE -

New crime drama ‘Taken Down’ ex­poses a hid­den side of Ire­land; Bren­dan Court­ney makes plans for his mother and him­self; and a por­trait cel­e­brat­ing Ire­land’s cur­rently serv­ing fe­male politi­cians seems obliv­i­ous to the pol­i­tics of the male gaze

Here’s an ar­rest­ing idea for a po­lice pro­ce­dural: a mur­der mys­tery where the sus­pects are al­ready in pri­son. At least, that’s the im­pres­sion of Taken Down (RTÉ One, Sun­day, 9.30pm), a som­bre and stately crime drama from the au­thor Jo Spain and Love/Hate cre­ator Stu­art Carolan, set largely in a di­rect pro­vi­sion cen­tre.

It’s a risky and in­tel­li­gent move. De­spite the grit­ti­ness of the genre, most peo­ple watch crime drama for es­capism, yet the Irish asy­lum process ought to be a na­tional scan­dal.

How long can the Bankole fam­ily, res­cued from a mi­grant raft, ex­pect to stay in an Irish di­rect pro­vi­sion cen­tre, asks the stoic Abeni Bankole (Aïssa Maïga)? A num­ber of weeks, maybe months, she is told. Noth­ing is quite as jolt­ing as the ti­tle: “Eight years later.”

This, it should be pointed out, is not the crime with which the de­tec­tives are con­cerned. In­stead, In­spec­tor Jen Rooney (Lynn Raf­ferty) must in­ves­ti­gate the death of a young Nige­rian woman, found blud­geoned to death out­side the cen­tre, a grim build­ing near Dublin Port which couldn’t look more like a crum­bling ho­tel in a waste­land.

Direc­tor David Caf­frey matches that sense of limbo with a cre­pus­cu­lar Dublin shot mostly at dawn, where one char­ac­ter, an Al­ge­rian Mus­lim asy­lum seeker named Samir (Sli­mane Dazi), can never sleep. This is no kind of life.

That makes for a subtly lay­ered drama of sus­pi­cion and suf­fo­ca­tion. Abeni’s son Isa­iah (an ex­cel­lent Aaron Edo) is now a teenager, whose flir­ta­tions with the vic­tim may bring trou­ble – they will be de­ported, Abeni rea­sons, “if they think we are un­de­sir­able”. Is it any won­der that Samir looks shifty, when he is al­ways be­ing watched? “You’re act­ing very sus­pi­cious,” barks a garda who’s act­ing very racist. Ev­ery­body has some­thing to hide.

Con­ceal­ment brings its own chal­lenges. Raf­ferty’s per­for­mance, for in­stance, is cur­rently muted to the point of seem­ing wooden. Brian Glee­son, mean­while, as the cen­tre’s in­ef­fec­tual, prat­tling and pre­sum­ably dis­sem­bling man­ager, steals ev­ery scene that isn’t nailed down.

Oc­ca­sion­ally Taken Down falls prey to glar­ing clichés: the trapped man who keeps a caged song­bird; the pathol­o­gist in­sen­si­tively eat­ing in the mor­tu­ary; the part­ner stat­ing the bleedin’ ob­vi­ous.

But in al­most ev­ery other re­spect this counts as a ma­jor ad­vance for an Irish tele­vi­sion drama, re­cruit­ing gen­uinely new faces to ma­jor roles, telling un­tapped sto­ries of a Dublin limbo, and ex­plor­ing a hid­den side to Ire­land im­pos­si­ble to sen­sa­tion­alise.

In one ap­pre­cia­ble irony, the most de­pres­sive char­ac­ter gives the show’s most op­ti­mistic maxim: “When life is turned up­side-down, how do you know that the side you are used to is bet­ter than the one to come?” That could be the mi­grant’s credo. And for a tele­vi­sion drama test­ing new ground, it bodes well for what is yet to come.

AFreudi­anslip

Early in Bren­dan Court­ney’s new doc­u­men­tary

We Need to Talk About Mam (RTÉ One, Mon­day, 9.35pm) – a cross be­tween a frank per­sonal di­ary, a fi­nan­cial ad­vice pro­gramme and a makeover show – the pre­sen­ter catches him­self in a Freudian slip.

“As soon as she calms down, we can hope­fully start mak­ing some de­ci­sions for her,” the pre­sen­ter says of his mother. He rolls his eyes and glances guiltily into the cam­era: “We…” he says, mildly mor­ti­fied. “She can start mak­ing some de­ci­sions for her.”

It’s a telling mo­ment, be­cause if Bren­dan needs to talk about Mam, he may as well be talk­ing about him­self. A vi­va­cious woman in her 70s, Nuala Court­ney is gre­gar­i­ous, sharp­wit­ted, car­ing and strik­ingly glam­orous. It’s hardly sur­pris­ing that she and her son have such a close re­la­tion­ship: they’re dead ringers. Hence, too, the hum of good-hu­moured ten­sion be­tween them.

Where they most dif­fer is in their re­gard for the fu­ture. Bren­dan seizes plans the way an overboard sailor clings to drift­wood. Nuala tends to go with the cur­rent.

We learn that she has no pen­sion or nest egg, and more poignantly, in her new viduity, no real un­der­stand­ing of her­self.

Her house is worth ¤400,000, though, Bren­dan es­ti­mates, de­camp­ing to the Ali­cante coast to ex­plore the al­ter­na­tives of sun­shine, swim­ming pools and super­mar­kets. If the show is fas­ci­nat­ingly un­even, it’s be­cause for all his own care­ful plan­ning, Bren­dan can’t pre­dict where th­ese ef­forts will lead. As with that Freudian slip, direc­tor Joanne McGrath is canny to in­clude for ev­ery jaunty con­ver­sa­tion play­ing up to the cam­eras, a more af­fect­ing one that does not.

“The free­dom,” Nuala re­marks of sin­gle sta­tus. “I can do what I like now. That’s hard.”

At the age of 47, Bren­dan seems like the gad­about who has seen the end of the party. He can’t do ev­ery­thing he likes now. That’s hard. “I don’t want to be a carer,” he says flatly.

Ev­ery bright so­lu­tion, how­ever, brings

‘‘ This counts as a ma­jor ad­vance for an Irish TV drama, re­cruit­ing gen­uinely new faces to ma­jor roles, telling un­tapped sto­ries of a Dublin limbo, and ex­plor­ing a hid­den side to Ire­land im­pos­si­ble to sen­sa­tion­alise

an­other tang of re­al­ity: the peo­ple in a man­i­cured re­tire­ment vil­lage who lost ei­ther their spouses or their pen­sions; fi­nan­cial ad­vice so grim it de­presses even Bren­dan; a hard-work­ing car­pen­ter who was al­most left home­less.

“Why didn’t he see that com­ing?” Bren­dan asks. “Why didn’t I see that com­ing? I sup­pose we don’t see it be­cause it’s grossly un­fair.”

It is. And when a tear­ful Nuala points out an un­fair­ness in this whole project, urged to con­tem­plate sunny ex­ile, or down­siz­ing, be­fore she is ready or will­ing, it stops Bren­dan in his tracks.

In the end, they con­sider con­vert­ing Nuala’s home into a granny flat with sep­a­rate ac­com­mo­da­tions and it’s telling that all those prickly jokes about mov­ing in to­gether stop. Think­ing back to a sprightly 105-year-old Amer­i­can they meet, liv­ing next door to his 73-year-old daugh­ter in the same re­tire­ment com­mu­nity, it seems less like a quirky in­clu­sion than one fas­ci­nat­ing pre­mo­ni­tion.

Atrail­blazer’sle­gacy AWoman’sPlace

(RTÉ One, Wed­nes­day, 11.10pm), which doc­u­ments the mak­ing of a por­trait of 53 women who cur­rently sit in the Oireach­tas, on the cen­te­nary of Con­stance Markiewicz’s his­toric elec­tion to of­fice, might have re­flected on th­ese politi­cians’ view of a trail­blazer’s legacy. Or how those who rep­re­sent us in po­lit­i­cal life now find them­selves rep­re­sented in art – some for the first time.

In­stead it is framed as the story of the male artist and a male jour­nal­ist who view them, hop­ing to tease out their char­ac­ters with ques­tions and po­laroids un­der the watch­ful eye of direc­tor De­clan McGrath. That it takes the doc­u­men­tary a full five min­utes be­fore we see or hear from a sin­gle woman does lit­tle to dis­pel the ap­pear­ance of unchecked male bias.

Noel Mur­phy in­sists there is “no fixed point of view” to his paint­ing dur­ing com­po­si­tion, al­low­ing “ev­ery­one to take con­trol of the work.” That, how­ever, is not how his paint­ing or the pro­gramme func­tions, which finds that women are for look­ing at and men do the look­ing.

Even the sym­bol­ism – un­in­tended or other­wise – is un­for­tu­nate, where the soft-spo­ken Mur­phy dots his can­vas with stick­ers that read “FRAG­ILE” to help in­spire his por­trait of pow­er­ful women.

In this he is as­sisted by the jour­nal­ist Ea­monn Mal­lie, who poses ques­tions typ­i­cal of a sil­very pan­jan­drum. Why are there so few women in pol­i­tics, he asks: “Is it the dif­fi­culty, the lack of com­mit­ment, or in­ter­est of fe­males in pol­i­tics?” The as­sump­tion be­ing that it must be their fault.

“Prob­a­bly blind­ness on be­half of men,” re­sponds Joan Bur­ton when asked in a sim­i­lar vein to ex­plain why there has been no fe­male Taoiseach. Bur­ton is so po­lite and tact­ful that the team don’t seem to no­tice how she calls out the unchecked gen­der bias of all-male pan­els. Ivana Bacik is equally as­sured and pa­tient when she de­fends the im­por­tance of gen­der quo­tas in pol­i­tics to­wards achiev­ing “a rep­re­sen­ta­tive par­lia­ment – and that’s the na­ture of democ­racy.”

In some ways th­ese sit­tings count as a po­lit­i­cal les­son for the artist, who will mar­vel at the lack of ego his sub­jects dis­play while re­peat­ing the dif­fi­culty and im­por­tance of his own task. That he min­gles his sub­jects with­out re­gard for their par­ties or po­lit­i­cal affin­ity – “to get rid of a po­lit­i­cal mes­sage” – seems like its own form of blind­ness. When one sub­ject laments that fe­male politi­cians are too of­ten treated as “one ho­moge­nous bunch”, for in­stance, what does that say of Mur­phy’s im­bri­ca­tion of faces?

At least the politi­cians float some stealthy and valid art crit­i­cism. “A big scrum­ble of women, isn’t it?” says Bríd Smith of the crowded can­vas, one of the few who ex­presses some in­sight into Markiewicz. “Will she have her gun?” she asks Mur­phy. The artist de­murs. “Give us all guns,” she says.

Who’s frag­ile now?

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: BERNARD WALSH/RTÉ

Aïssa Maïga as Abeni in Taken Down; Bren­dan Court­ney and his mam Nuala in We Need to Talk About Mam; artist Noel Mur­phy in A Woman’s Place.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.