Monday, 29 July 2013

The Mill

Channel 4 is on a roll in terms of drama of late. Fresh from the satisfyingly good Dates and Run, last night saw the first episode of The Mill, a four part series written by John Fay set during the 1830s and based on real accounts about Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire.


Right from the off I was gripped. Way back when I was at school the Industrial Revolution and the fight to push reforms through was always my favourite topic in history class. Stories of unpaid child labour at up to and over 12 hours per day, cruelty and the risks and dangers of the factory or mill environment leading often inevitably to tragedy, both fascinated and appalled me. The Mill captures exactly how I imagined it from those old school text books; grim and uncompromising it was bleakly beautifully lit, well written with no scrimping on the crude language in the mouths of the young actors (times were hard, and there wasn't time for euphemisms) all of whom played their parts brilliantly but special praise must go to Liverpudlian actress Kerrie Hayes (the one on the right in the photo above) as the militant Esther Price, a young girl leading the charge against the cruelty and injustice. The 'adult' cast are no less impressive, including such weighty names as Matthew McNulty, Jamie Draven, Donald Sumpter, Barbara Marten, Kevin R McNally and a great skin crawling turn from a leering Craig Parkinson as the mill's overlooker,  more interested in looking over the young girls than he is observing the work and ensuring safety.

Somewhat ridiculously, reviews in the snoozepapers today have bemoaned that The Mill was 'too grim' It was, I'm sorry to break it to the namby critics, real life. Life was grim and hard! The Mill doesn't shy away from that at all and it should be applauded for doing so. In the current climate of young adults crying about infringements to their human rights (innit) if so much as a teacher gives them detention, it's vital that we show what real suffering their 1800s counterparts had to endure, and hopefully they'll realise that they have it easy nowadays and that indeed, their damn lucky they've got school to go too.   

I also don't feel the accusation the press made was correct either as towards the end of this opening episode I had a grin as broad as the Cheshire Cat's watching Esther get one over the overlookers and mill owners. Perhaps these professional tele reviewers expect all historical period drama on a Sunday night to be Downton Abbey. I'm certainly glad they're not, as the recent BBC1 drama The Village proved, there's room for realism on TV.

The Mill continues next Sunday at 8pm and is well worth catching, if you missed it, on 40D. Also next week immediately after The Mill is Southcliffe another star studded drama on 4. They're really spoiling us.




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