When the story of the “Canoe Man” emerged in 2007, I’d enterprise that the nation’s screenwriters had been all sharpening their pens. You’ll most likely keep in mind it, or a few of it: in March 2002 John Darwin, a 52-year-old former trainer and jail officer, was seen paddling out to sea in a canoe from the shore at Seaton Carew. This was deliberate – Darwin was about to faux his personal demise and, in collusion along with his spouse Anne, use the insurance coverage cash to repay his whopping money owed. The plan, for those who can name it that, was to cover out in a tent within the woods till the story died down (it didn’t).
What was most placing concerning the Darwins was how profoundly unstriking they had been, and this too I’d enterprise caught the attention of the creators of The Thief, His Spouse and the Canoe (ITV): there’s nothing extra intriguing than bizarre folks doing extraordinary, or on this case totally witless, issues. It invitations the viewers to ask questions of themselves, what they could do in numerous circumstances, and that leads you to empathy, morality, secrets and techniques, lies and all the good things.
The query for a screenwriter with an incredible true story although, is learn how to do it. Right here, author Chris Lang (Unforgotten) has chosen to play it straight. Aside from a starting that’s set on the finish (in 2007 with Monica Dolan’s Anne Darwin being chased round Panama Metropolis by paparazzi) the story jumps proper in with John (Eddie Marsan) having lived manner past his means and them each concluding that there’s “just one smart resolution”. It tells you all it is advisable find out about husband and spouse that Anne’s smart resolution is declaring chapter, whereas John’s is faking his personal demise in a freak canoeing accident.
Issues unravel rapidly, one lie swirling into one other till Anne finds herself telling her personal sons their father is useless. Seconds later John, who on this telling is a deluded narcissist, is on the cellphone asking Anne when he can come again house. Lang accurately identifies that the attention-grabbing story right here is Anne’s – how did a seemingly variety, considerate lady discover herself tied up in a wedding like this one? Why did she associate with the harebrained scheme? Why didn’t she simply flip him in, as she threatened a number of occasions?
It’s fertile floor but surprisingly we’re supplied entry to Anne’s ideas and motives through a voiceover. In TV drama this tends to be a little bit of a lazy shortcut: present, don’t inform and many others. It’s subsequently a shock to discover a voiceover, as a result of Lang is not any lazy author – witness Unforgotten, certainly one of British TV’s finest current reveals – and performers pretty much as good as Monica Dolan don’t want their ideas and motives defined anyway. They present, they don’t inform. The apparent comparability is with Sky’s Landscapers, one other weird, real-life crime story (concerning the Mansfield Murders) which additionally requested why a mild-mannered couple (on this case Olivia Colman and David Thewlis) may do egregious issues.
Landscapers took a really completely different strategy, throwing each filming approach within the ebook at it and creating one thing splendidly trippy. However each dramas admitted that there’s all the time comedy in darkish deeds, and each had been centred on very good performances from their leads. Britain at the moment leads the way in which in real-life crime dramas like this, and it must be celebrated. Or to borrow a phrase, we’re killing it.