fri 31/03/2023

Drama Matters: Lawless, Sky Living | reviews, news & interviews

Drama Matters: Lawless, Sky Living

Drama Matters: Lawless, Sky Living

Girl power runs riot in new season of one-off dramas

Suranne Jones as Lila Pettitt, 'the brightest legal mind of her generation'

There's no denying the allure of a well-crafted legal drama, and there's also  probably a hefty swathe of fans pining for the return of Maxine Peake in Peter Moffat's superior Grays Inn yarn, Silk. They will have found plenty to cheer in Suranne Jones's thumpingly enjoyable performance as Lila Pettitt in Lawless [****], one of the female-centric pilot shows in Sky Living's new Drama Matters series.

Lila has just been appointed the country's youngest-ever female recorder (a judge by any other name), and is pitched head first into the Lewis Carroll-esque maelstrom of life on the bench. There are bumbling old male judges, chaotic clerks, posh boys resentful of her working class origins, bungling translators who mislead the jury, and a health and safety crisis in the judge's dining room after somebody urinated in the soup.

Meanwhile divorced mother-of-two Lila is battling that familiar problem of work-life balance while keeping her meteoric career on track. What looks much more worrying, though, is her indebtedness to Will Carlisle QC, whose ecstatic endorsement of her as "the brightest legal mind of her generation" clinched the new job for her, but also came with hazardous strings attached.

Carlisle is played with an overdose of villainous relish by Jonathan Cake (pictured above with Suranne Jones), the very model of a moustache-twirling silent movie villain whom you could easily imagine tying a helpless heroine to the railway tracks. When he encounters Lila in the street at lunchtime on her first day in the job, he promptly whisks her away to a power-lunch with politicians and judges, shoving his hand up her skirt for good measure. Lila has, perhaps, been a little naive in imagining that Will's fulsome professional endorsement had no private quid pro quo attached. When Will invades the ladies' loo and rams her up against the wall, she realises that she has to draw her line in the sand pronto, and damn the consequences.

The possibly insoluble problem with writing a pilot episode is balancing plot, background information and the introduction of characters, but writer Jacquetta May (a Torchwood veteran) judged this one pretty smartly. We were left impaled on the hook of the trial of Tyler Repton, a black youth accused of burglary and terrorising his married white female victim, but the issue is the tip of a much more complex iceberg, connected to a murder trial at the Old Bailey. Somebody had better commission some more episodes sharpish so we can find out what happens.

Drama Matters opened on Tuesday with The Psychopath Next Door [***], starring Anna Friel as psychiatrist Dr Eve Wright (pictured left). It seems Dr Wright is far more in need of treatment than her patients, and she's on the run from her chequered past and a trail of  tormented victims. She's taking temporary refuge in a new home on a comfortable suburban housing estate.  

Her modus operandi is to insinuate herself into the local social network and then systematically poison it. Joining a squad of local women who go jogging together (psychotic Eve pretends she's a useless jogger but trains obsessively in secret), she sets about wheedling out the girls' dirty secrets of infidelities and indiscretions, then leaking the knowledge where it will wreak the most havoc.

Friel was obviously enjoying herself, a sleek killing machine in figure-hugging skirts, red stilettos and crimson lipstick. There was an especially chilling moment when she saw a dead dog and its grieving owner by the roadside, and paused for a moment to shed fake tears of empathy, as though conducting a laboratory test. This episode was hyperactively crammed with too much action from both past and present, but it showed clear full-series potential.

When Will invades the ladies' loo and rams her up against the wall, she realises that she has to draw her line in the sand pronto

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id love to know some of the soundtracks that was used

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