Thursday, 10 November 2005
Sensitive Skin, BBC2
A painstakingly realised drama that lays bare the casual crumbling of vibrant middle-age into the archaic angst of being a pensioner.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A void of a drama whose subtleties merely mask a yawning chasm of tepidity and narrative.
What was good about it?
• The cast. Essentially only three people, Davina (Joanna Lumley), Al (Dennis Lawson) and Orlando (James Lance), but each is superbly intimately sketched that they became near-icons after the first episode.
• Davina’s anxiety over growing old were stamped in the opening scene when her doctor outlined the crippling conditions associated with HRT. But her concern was only with the sole benefit – that it keeps her “looking younger”.
• Al and Davina’s sterile apartment, with its grey-washed walls, sparse décor. The visiting Orlando complained that the flat ideally suited him, and it would do just that – it was a parody of a young entrepreneur’s dream home (leaving aside the fact that entrepreneurs don’t dream), and so lifeless that even a ghost wouldn’t haunt it.
• Al’s frenetic personality contrasted well with the icier Davina. He was irascible with his son Orlando; vengeful when he went to the library purposefully to read the terrible reviews of a rival journalist’s new book cackling falsely at the literary bile; but epileptically contrite when he accidentally knocked down the local drug dealer.
• Meanwhile, Orlando, 33, has been mollycoddled by his parents and is aggravated that their decision to sell the home he grew up in for their apartment has finally cut the parental umbilical cord. Recovering after his girlfriend dumped him for being impotent, he spitefully demands that Al cares for his dog William – condemning him to be a parent, of sorts, once more.
• When Al and Davina joke about her braving the dangers of travelling on the underground, such as terrorists and muggers, she quips she “rather fancied” herself “as Purdey Hurst”.
• Even the human manifestation of Davina’s frustration as a, grouchy, grizzled admiral (played by Feddie Davies), representative of the moment she realised she would never marry Robert Redford, worked because of the matter-of-fact mood of the whole tale.
• The dislocation evident between Al and Davina when she emerged from the hairdressers, and tried in vain to keep it from blowing in the wind, while Al absently tried to hail a cab.
• The crushing mediocrity of middle-aged, middle-class suburban homes exemplified through Davina and Al’s visit to her sister. Her sister sat quaintly on the sofa, tea cup and saucer in hand, as if she had been there for all eternity, whilst her husband tried to impress Al with his terrible new compositions on his electric piano.
• The dog spinning in circles after inhaling cocaine.
What was bad about it?
• The mournful piano which punctuated the story, often heralding one of the protagonists moping around in a veil of self-pity.
• The rather obvious joke about the irritating cellophane on CDs
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