Silence amid the slapstick: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews weekend's TV
Lurking violence and a wall of silence amid the slapstick: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV
The Woman In The Wall
Happy Halloween! It comes around quicker every year… and this time, on the eve of the pagan festival known as Ye August Banke Holyday.
A tale of ghosts, banshees, haunted houses and buried memories, The Woman In The Wall (BBC1) has the flavour of a waking nightmare, where nothing seems quite real and anything is possible.
Veering from Irish stereotypes to creepy Gothic, this six-part drama (continuing tonight) often resembles a collaboration between Graham Norton and Stephen King.
There’s sudden death — a priest dead in his hallway, a woman who might be a former nun crammed into a wall cavity — and a sense of lurking violence with knives, scissors and axes. All this is the familiar stuff of horror movies.
But the story also edges constantly into the surreal. The opening aerial shot finds Lorna (Ruth Wilson) unconscious in the middle of a country lane in west Ireland, being nuzzled by cows.
The Woman In The Wall (BBC1) has the flavour of a waking nightmare, where nothing seems quite real and anything is possible
When she jerks awake, she seems barely surprised to be asleep in her nightdress, miles from anywhere: this apparently is a regular occurence.
Other moments tip over into physical comedy. When Lorna stabs a picture of Jesus, she bursts a waterpipe behind the painting and gets a soaking. Competent lass that she is, she grabs a blowtorch and uses it both to fix the leak and light her ciggie.
The next time she blacks out, she’s gatecrashing a hen do at a pub, and awakes with a pair of plastic devil’s horns on her head… and a corpse in the closet.
After a fight in a graveyard with a statue of the Virgin Mary, Lorna is well known to the local police sergeant, Aidan Massey (Simon Delaney).
He knows everyone on his patch, of course, every bit of gossip and folklore. When Dublin detective Colman Akande (Daryl McCormack) arrives, investigating the murder of priest Father Percy, he discovers some of the locals are delighted at the news.
Sgt Massey refuses to believe that anyone in his ‘boring little town’ of Kilkinure could commit a serious crime… and that if they did, the best thing would be never to talk about it.
Lorna, meanwhile, is sleepwalking the streets with a can of petrol and a lighter, looking for evidence of murder to destroy.
Wilson plays that scene to perfection, walking in a zombie shuffle like a puppet with one broken string and a maniacal grin.
When an explosion wakes her, she looks genuinely terrified. It’s a measure of her excellence that, though Lorna is always aggressive and often unpleasant, she never loses our sympathy.
Beneath the layers of strangeness and slapstick, there’s a serious theme. Like many of the women in this small town, Ruth is a survivor of the Magdalene Laundries, the workhouses where unmarried mothers and girls judged to be ‘wayward’ were incarcerated and abused for decades.
There was slapstick amid the Hammer horror motifs in Midsomer Murders (ITV1), too. DS Winter (Nick Hendrix) got a bucket of water full in the face from Tracy-Ann Oberman as a village witch.
When Winter first spotted Holly and pointed her out to his boss as ‘the Queen of Daytime,’ our hero was sceptical
The real star, though, was Holly Willoughby, who dropped in to help release a couple of beavers into the wild, and spent all her scenes flirting with the smitten DS Winter
Colin Salmon played a swindler pretending to be a psychic, and Janine Duvitski was the stage medium channelling messages from the recently dead. She must be kept rather busy in Midsomer.
The real star, though, was Holly Willoughby, who dropped in to help release a couple of beavers into the wild, and spent all her scenes flirting with the smitten DS Winter.
Her charms were lost on DCI Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon). When Winter first spotted Holly and pointed her out to his boss as ‘the Queen of Daytime,’ our hero was sceptical.
‘Are you sure?’ scoffed Barnaby. ‘Gloria Hunniford?’
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