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Sound and screen re­views

An­other co­hort of mod­estly fa­mous faces bands to­gether against the tor­ments of the jun­gle; a con­fined drama adds lit­tle to the lethal de­fences of a mur­der-ac­cused home­owner; and a solemn doc­u­men­tary on do­mes­tic abuse and a cul­ture of si­lence hopes to alarm peo­ple into pos­i­tive ac­tion

Stand­ing by the edge of a cliff, 100 me­tres above a ver­dant rain­for­est, one of the new­est con­tes­tants of I’ma Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (Vir­gin Me­dia One, Sun­day, 9pm) calmly as­sesses the risk. “They won’t let us die,” soap star Sair Khan tells sci-fi star John Bar­row­man, se­cure in the safety net of mod­est fame.

That’s the as­sump­tion most view­ers of this death­less fran­chise will make too, even if the long-stand­ing prom­ise of the pro­gramme, 18 se­ries in, is that hor­ri­fy­ing in­sects might eat the celebri­ties. Or that celebri­ties will be forced to eat hor­ri­fy­ing in­sects. Or, far more likely, that hor­ri­fy­ing celebri­ties will eat each other.

Khan may laugh, over in­tro­duc­tions, that “I’m most afraid of you guys!” But to see an­other soap star, Rita Si­mons, ur­gently check­ing with Bar­row­man, “You know who I am, don’t you?”, is to see that she has good cause.

In the mean­time, one of the show’s most recog­nis­able celebri­ties has dis­ap­peared. Ear­lier this year, Ant Mc­Partlin re­solved to con­cen­trate on his re­cov­ery from ad­dic­tion and forgo pre­sent­ing. That leaves Dec Don­nelly, his pro­fes­sional life part­ner, feel­ing ex­posed. “I’ve never done it with a girl be­fore,” Don­nelly says to new co-host Holly Wil­loughby, bring­ing an erup­tion of off-cam­era laugh­ter, as all of Dec’s words must.

For all the bit­ing rep­tiles, phys­i­cal ex­er­tions and mak­ing meals from measly ra­tions, the most ar­du­ous task on I’m a Celebrity is to as­sure Dec that he is hi­lar­i­ous. Wil­loughby, for her part, is not al­lowed to try.

The struc­ture of the show, thus far, seems de­signed to sow di­vi­sion, rou­tinely cast­ing ri­val teams as “win­ners” and “losers” as they are as­sem­bled through suc­ces­sive tasks. The ef­fect, how­ever, is to gal­vanise co-op­er­a­tion within both teams, al­beit with a huge self-se­lected gen­der im­bal­ance. In tasks, they are sup­port­ive, tact­ful and en­cour­ag­ing. Out­side tasks, they are the same, swim­ming to the as­sis­tance of the ri­val team at one de­mor­al­is­ing point, or later ral­ly­ing around Anne Hegerty, the quiz show star, who has Asperger’s, when she be­comes dis­tressed by her new en­vi­ron­ment.

That, to judge from Twit­ter, was not the first re­ac­tion of the au­di­ence, who had gath­ered to mock un­happy and hun­gry celebs, to ruth­lessly ap­praise Wil­loughby’s per­for­mance, or gen­er­ally cheer for the abyss. One young con­tes­tant, Emily Atack, who – like McVey, or Malique Thomp­son-Dwyer – had grown up watch­ing the show, naively imag­ined this ven­ture as a rite of pas­sage: “If I sur­vive some­thing like this,” she tells us, “I can sur­vive go­ing into adult­hood.”

What does it say about the ma­tu­rity of her watch­ers, then, that the self-pro­fessed ’fraidy cat was the first per­son the pub­lic se­lected to be thrown into a vipers’ nest? “I can’t watch this!” yelped Wil­loughby at the prospect. That seems like sound ad­vice.


When two bur­glars broke into the home of Tony Martin, late on Au­gust 20th, 1999, Martin was pre­pared. “That’s one of the odd­i­ties with me,” he told po­lice the next day of his habit of sleep­ing fully dressed with his boots on, as though it was not in the least bit odd. Nor, for that mat­ter, that he kept a shot­gun un­der his bed.

Within a few mo­ments, he had killed one in­truder, a 16-year-old boy, and wounded the other (both of whom, this con­fined drama­ti­sa­tion does not elab­o­rate, were Ir­ish Trav­ellers). The case threw Bri­tain into an up­roar. Writer and di­rec­tor David Nath shrewdly be­gins The In­ter­ro­ga­tion of Tony Martin (Chan­nel 4, Sun­day, 9pm), with a flit­ter of im­ages from the con­tem­po­rary me­dia cov­er­age, sug­gest­ing a riven na­tion. But the drama quickly shrinks into Martin’s po­lice in­ter­views, filmed as a ver­ba­tim re-en­act­ment.

“I’ve had a hor­ren­dous ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says, in Steve Pem­ber­ton’s guarded per­for­mance, as flat and freighted as a Harold Pin­ter play. “It’s an ab­so­lute night­mare.”

In­deed, Martin’s life has been one of chronic iso­la­tion, per­ceived threat and con­stant griev­ance. “There is no­body to help you,” he says, piv­ot­ing be­tween para­noia and ag­gres­sion. “I wish I was in China, ” he shouts, apro­pos of very lit­tle. “They’d put a bul­let in my bloody head and I’d be out of the way.”

Nath, how­ever, wants to put us in Martin’s bloody head, find­ing it clouded with ob­ses­sions, of­ten mut­ing the sounds around him, as though Martin’s ears were still ring­ing, or bar­rag­ing

‘‘ It may be dis­tress­ing to watch the con­trib­u­tors to this solemn doc­u­men­tary re­live their trau­mas, their words halt­ing and voices break­ing un­der painful rec­ol­lec­tions. But they are here to counter that si­lence

him with sud­den in­ter­fer­ence. It’s a hor­ren­dous ex­pe­ri­ence. An ab­so­lute night­mare.

Un­for­tu­nately, every­thing that’s in­ter­est­ing about the case is beyond Martin’s cowled per­cep­tion: the cau­tious con­cerns of his mother, the more stren­u­ous wor­ries of his alarmed neigh­bour, the con­tra­dic­tory ev­i­dence pre­sented at his trial.

In court, it was re­vealed, the in­trud­ers had been any­thing other than silent phan­toms (Martin claimed he did not re­alise he had shot any­one): the last word of the teenager, Fred Bar­ras, shot in the back, was a help­less, “Mum”.

That’s as much voice as the de­ceased is af­forded, how­ever, which am­pli­fies the un­ease around Nath’s de­ci­sion to give the con­clud­ing min­utes of his film to the real Martin. Orig­i­nally found guilty of mur­der, but re­leased three years later, on ap­peal, for man­slaugh­ter, Martin now sounds only more para­noid, more bel­liger­ent: “I’m go­ing to look after my­self,” he in­sists.

His ear­lier words, in the Sty­gian gloom of the in­ter­ro­ga­tion room, were more darkly equiv­o­cal: “I was in a very re­gret­table po­si­tion,” he con­cludes. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Nor, sadly, does this muted drama.

Fol­low a pat­tern

Be­neath the pri­vate hor­rors of do­mes­tic abuse – and they are so of­ten kept pri­vate – is some­thing just as dis­tress­ing: these vi­o­la­tions so of­ten fol­low a pat­tern.

To those caught within an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship, that can be hard to ap­pre­ci­ate, as when Priscilla Grainger re­calls the change in her hus­band as some­thing like a bolt out of the blue. “There were no warn­ing signs,” she says, “no flags fly­ing.” On the se­cond night of their honey­moon, he bru­tally as­saulted her. “I was shocked,” she says.

That shock may owe it­self, in part, to the stigma around abuse in an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship. Tabú: Ag Teacht Slán (TG4, Wed­nes­day, 9.30pm) es­ti­mates that 300,000 peo­ple in Ire­land have suf­fered at the hands of a part­ner; that roughly 75 per cent of women, and a sim­i­larly high per­cent­age of male vic­tims, never re­port it. One tac­tic of abusers is to in­tim­i­date their vic­tims into si­lence. How dis­turb­ing is it, then, that such a si­lence has al­lowed the phe­nom­e­non to be­come so wor­ry­ingly wide­spread?

It may be dis­tress­ing to watch the con­trib­u­tors to this solemn doc­u­men­tary re­live their trau­mas, their words halt­ing and voices break­ing un­der painful rec­ol­lec­tions. But they are here to counter that si­lence. Like Priscilla, most have sto­ries of sur­vival to share. But the fam­ily of Ciara Camp­bell, mur­dered in 2007 by her ex-part­ner, must rep­re­sent her.

What com­pels Ciara’s fa­ther Mícheál Ó Cuin­neagáin to speak, with such ag­o­nis­ing de­tail about their ex­pe­ri­ence, or Ais­ling Byrne, whose or­deal with an abu­sive hus­band in­ten­si­fied after the birth of her se­cond child, if not the hope that oth­ers watch­ing may be en­cour­aged to act? In the case of “Joe”, voiced by an ac­tor, it was an anony­mous mem­ber of the pub­lic who re­ported his wife for strik­ing their child in pub­lic, bring­ing an in­cred­i­bly toxic sit­u­a­tion to light. “I think that woman saved our lives, you know?” he says.

If the pro­gramme it­self hopes to in­ter­vene, it is in high­light­ing how lit­tle pro­vi­sion there is na­tion­ally for women’s shel­ters, how over­run those that ex­ist are, how ta­boo male vic­tim­hood re­mains, and how in­ad­e­quate le­gal chan­nels ap­pear to be.

It is an alarm­ing re­port, but the alarm is in­tended to rouse pos­i­tive re­sponse. “There is al­ways hope and light at the end of the tun­nel,” con­cludes Ais­ling, now re­moved from harm and hope­ful for the fu­ture. “But you need to be able to pro­tect your­self. You need to be able to call on ev­ery sup­port that you can.”


Steve Pem­ber­ton in The In­ter­ro­ga­tion of Tony Martin; I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here con­tes­tant Emily Atack; do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sur­vivor Ais­ling Byrne in Tabú: Ag Teacht Slán.

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