Saturday, 1 August 2015

Don't Take My Baby (2015)

The pending, though in all likelihood already made and irreversible, decision to move BBC3 to an online platform in January is despicable and shameful when one considers that the channel consistently produces the closest thing we now have to the Play For Today style drama. Consider last year's BAFTA winning Murdered By My Boyfriend and Glasgow Girls and this year's premiere of Leave to Remain and now this latest offering as part of their disability season, Don't Take My Baby - these are productions worth the licence fee alone. To show your support for BBC3, please sign the petition here

Don't Take My Baby follows the traditions of the classic and groundbreaking single TV plays like Cathy Come Home and it does so by highlighting a very real issue in today's society. Each year the UK Children’s Services investigate approximately 11,000 disabled couples and pass judgement on whether they should be allowed to keep their children. And every year 3,000 of those children are taken away and put in the care of foster families. This is England writer Jack Thorne takes such facts and, along with director Ben Anthony, humanises and personalises them for his audience to tell a heartbreaking story of one young couple's struggle to keep their baby daughter.

Ruth Madeley and Adam Long star as the beautiful young couple Anna and Tom. They're like any 20 somethings parents today except that Anna has a rare muscle-wasting disease that confines her to a wheelchair and means her life expectancy is anyone's guess whilst Tom is partially sighted, with steadily deteriorating vision. Into their lives comes the intrusive but necessary presence of social services as represented by Belinda (played by Wumni Osaku) who has the unenviable task of scrutinising their every move as they attempt to care for their newborn baby.

Thorne’s script perfectly dramatises the whole process as a series of interruptions and humiliations, of a domestic life that can never relax because of an uncertain future. Every aspect of their life threatens to become something that can go against their case to show their fitness as parents and we authentically and sympathetically see the stresses and trauma that living under such a microscope can bring. Key to Thorne's script is the fact that Anna and Tom are so ordinary; he doesn't depict them as saints as some disability dramas can be want to do, he shows their lives warts and all in a manner that holds a mirror up to able bodied viewers in a genuinely thought provoking manner. It certainly makes you consider life's lottery that's for sure.

For my money Don’t Take My Baby is one of the dramas of the year and if it doesn't replicate the success of Murdered By My Boyfriend then there's no justice. Equally if the BBC loses such an important culturally and socially aware arm as this then it is equally criminal. Anyone who has ever scorned BBC3 - especially those in the BBC hierarchy - seriously needs to see this (and those other dramas mentioned as well as the plethora of excellent documentaries) and realise just how wrong they have been.

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