Appropriate Adult (ITV1)

Posted: September 6, 2011 by josheppard in Telly
Tags: , , , , , ,

In a nutshell: “Just put ‘approx’ nine more killings…”

Popcorn rating: 4/5

When someone ‘vulnerable’ – a child, or an adult who might not fully understand the procedure – is arrested or charged with a crime, an ‘appropriate adult’ is appointed to sit in on interviews, offer them advice, and generally make sure the nasty old policemen aren’t taking advantage of them. Presumably, when Janet Leach volunteered for this back in the mid-90s, she was expecting to be keeping an eye on 15-year-old shoplifters. What actually happened was that her first client was a ‘53-year-old man with learning difficulties.’

Who’d raped, murdered and dismembered his daughter.

Appropriate Adult is the true story of the investigation into Fred and Rose West’s squalid, sadistic murder spree, told from the perspective of Leach, West’s uneasy confidante. Much praise has been given to Emily Watson as Leach, but while she is indeed convincing in what must have been a harrowing part to play, from the audience’s point of view all she really has to do is look haggard and harassed. The really strong performance is from Dominic ‘No Relation’ West.

Is there no end to Dominic’s talents? How can one man play a Baltimore cop, a 1950s BBC newsreader and a psychotic bumpkin and be utterly convincing as all of them? I suspect witchcraft, but whatever: West is brilliant as, well, West. He’s sinister, occasionally roguish, even charming in a manipulative sort of way, one moment ‘a bit simple’, as my mother would say, and the next wily and cunning.

Somewhat overlooked in the previews, Monica Dolan as crass, aggressive, foul-mouthed Rose is excellent too – malevolent, vicious and terrifying in an entirely different way from her disturbingly affable husband.

The subject matter of Appropriate Adult is, of course, distressing, despite the wise decision not to attempt to recreate any of the actual murders or show the exhumation of the victims’ remains. But incredibly, there are lines, lifted straight from the real police interviews with Fred, that are shockingly close to being funny: this drama isn’t scared to shy away from the occasionally comic banality of small-town evil.

The cast and makers had a tough job on their hands with Appropriate Adult, but they’ve managed to pull it off without it once descending into sensationalism or exploitation. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had cause to say this in the past twenty years – but ITV really have done a fine job.

Reviewer: JoSheppard

  1. curlyshirley says:

    There was an interesting article in The Guardian by Appropriate Adult writer Neil McKay on this controversial drama, if anyone’s interested:

  2. […] post: Appropriate Adult (ITV1) « Let Them Eat Popcorn Tags: bbc, coming-nbspsoon, curlyshirley, dominic-west, facebook-photo, film, home, […]

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