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Monday, 20 August 2012

The Last Weekend.


Rupert Penry-Jones as Ollie, Shaun Evans as Ian and Claire Keelan as Em.

For those of you who watch Silk (The BBC’s gritty, legal drama), you’d be forgiven for thinking The Last Weekend was some sort of spin-off show with Rupert Penry-Jones enjoying his holidays away from the courtroom. However, you should be aware that although the delightful Mr Penry-Jones appears to have a penchant for playing snooty, obnoxious barristers on every available channel on the box, The Last Weekend is in fact an adaptation of Blake Morrison’s best-selling suspense thriller novel of the same name.

Rupert (Whitechapel, Silk) stars alongside Shaun Evans (Endeavour, The Take), Genevieve O’Reilly (Episodes, Law & Order: UK) and Claire Keelan (The Trip, Moving On) in the ITV1 drama adapted by Mick Ford and what appears at first to be the story of two couples, old friends, sharing a bank holiday weekend together in the country, quickly turns into something a lot more sinister.

And if you’d sat down in front of your television on a Sunday evening expecting a charming tale of friendship and frolics, you’d soon be steered in the right direction when Shaun Evan’s character, Ian, steps out of his car, the scene darkens, and he exclaims (to camera), “Well, it’s not as if I’m a murderer is it?”. And there you have it. Your first clue. The Last Weekend is to be an insight into the world of jealousy, lust, competitiveness and brutal circumstance.

In a refreshing change to his usual typecast roles (as a quiet, brooding detective in Whitechapel, sultry spy in Spooks or insufferable Barrister in Silk), Rupert Penry-Jones is upbeat, energetic and more excitable than a kid at an amusement park when we first meet him. However, give it five minutes and the traits he plays so well start seeping through. Once again, he is competitive, arrogant and self obsessed. The Rupert we all know and love.

Shaun’s character (Ian) takes slightly longer to reveal his true self. Under the scrutiny, pressure and competitive spirit of Ollie (played by Rupert), he professes to be a well-to-do, slightly impoverished school teacher who loves his wife, Em (Claire Keelan) and who merely wants to spend a relaxing weekend with his friends. A little later down the line, we begin to see his true intentions as we find out that he and Olly’s wife Daisy (Genevieve O’Reilly) used to be lovers and Ian still has a ‘thing’ for her, or so one can assume judging from the way he stares at her sunbathing in the garden.

The pace of this psychological thriller has been well set by this first episode. The transitions between present and past, as well as Shaun’s captivating ‘piece to cameras’, keep the audience guessing the whole way through. With every 10 minute segment, we are offered another morsel of information and a deeper insight into the slightly murky world of jealousy and resentment and we find ourselves itching to know more.

It seems the stakes are only going to get higher in the second part of this gripping drama and I think it’s safe to say, there’s going to be a lot more than just strawberries, cream and cricket where this lot are concerned. You have been warned.

See part two (out of three) of The Last Weekend next Sunday 26 August at 9pm on ITV1.

Contributed by Vicki Greenfield Follow Vicki on Twitter

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