19 February 2020
FLESH AND BLOOD Miniseries: Episode 1 + Q&A Review

Saw the screening at the BFI. It is shockingly well-written (by Sarah Williams, who I don’t know much about to be honest, so will have to rectify that). The way the story flashes back and forth is really intriguing, but not at all confusing, which is rare. The characters are well-thought out.

I promise there will be no spoilers, so read on. Francesca Annis plays a[n elderly] mum with 3 grown kids (all living on their own, all with families and problems of their own). Mum’s new friend (Stephen Rea) makes them clash. That’s the plot. And oh, there is Mary the neighbour. If you didn’t love Imelda Staunton before (though I’m not sure how it’s possible), you will now. She can communicate with just a look or pursing of her lips far more than you can imagine. She is incomparable. The “tv dinner” scene made people roll with laughter, even though all she did was furrow her brow. But oh how she did it!!!

Annis is solid: a fragile elderly woman who craves her independence comes through very well. Stephen Rea (who I positively adore ever since seeing him in Ballyturk at the National years ago, further reinforced by seeing him in Cyprus Avenue last year) is brilliant. It’s a great role for him: a bit fumbling, a bus mischievous, a bit mysterious, he keeps you on your toes like no other character.

As for the children, Claudie Blakley is the eldest. The strong independent type who suffers for it. Not much to say about her character or Blakley’s development of it yet.

Lydia Leonard (who I barely recognised, even after liking her in Quacks on BBC and loving her from my front row Oslo seat at the National) is the youngest. I really enjoyed her portrayal. Someone who has been very patient of her circumstances (and hopeful for resolution), but is beginning to doubt things will work out. Leonard plays the character you’d expect to disapprove of, but she makes her very likeable, very believable, and I certainly felt sorry for her above anything else.

And, of course, the middle child is the incomparable Russell Tovey. I’ve saved the best for last. He is a fitness instructor and personal trainer. And he prepped for the role: massive biceps and a 6-pack. Holy smokes. Given I already think he is one of the two sexiest actors alive (and probably dead), that was serious eye-candy. And he is shirtless. Come on! That said, good-looking though he is, I love him first and foremost for being an extraordinary actor.  Yes, I prefer him on stage. But even on a screen umpteen feet tall, he makes you feel like you’re sat right next to him watching his life unfold. There is one scene in this episode where Stella (another character) asks him about his kids, and his face is pretty much the focus of the scene. If he doesn’t get major acting accolades for that scene alone, there is no justice in this world.

There is no cheapskate enjoyment value on this one, as everyone will be able to watch it for free on iTV next week.

*Bonus:* Bumped into Stephen Rea in the hallway, as he was coming out of the loo, and I was headed into it. Told him I first saw him on stage in Ballyturk and thought he was amazing. He gave me a big smile and said, “aww, don’t be silly!” What a treat!

P.S.: The Q&A was really fun and engaging. The actors (Rea, Staunton, and Annis; sadly no Tovey or others), the writer (Williams), and the director (Louise Hooper) looked like they had a great time working together. Lots of interesting questions were asked, lots of mediocre ones. Someone asked Rea what it’s like to work with a female director. He shrugged and said, “Female director? There are good directors, and there are mediocre ones.” Gotta love him 🙂

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