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Tuesday, 1 June 2021

REVIEW: Inside No.9's 'Hurry up and wait' is a claustrophobic and unsettling watch.

 Although Simon Says, by the time it aired, had an accidental link to Line Duty, this week’s instalment of Inside No. 9 has an intentional one, in the form of guest star Adrian Dunbar playing a version of himself. The setup of Hurry Up and Wait is that jobbing actor James (Reece Shearsmith) has a small speaking role in a new true-crime drama, starring Dunbar, about the unsolved case of a baby who disappeared around 20 years ago and was never found. The TV series is being filmed in the area where the case actually occurred, and the ‘number 9’ in question is a local family’s home (a static caravan) functioning as a temporary green room for the actors.


Whilst waiting to be called to set, James meets the family whose home has been commandeered for the day. There’s surly Stan (Steve Pemberton), who isn’t best pleased about being kicked out of his own living room and becomes even less impressed when James tells him how tiring it is to spend all day waiting around with nothing to do. Then there’s his apologetic wife Oona (Pauline McLynn), who hovers around making cuppas for James, obliviously remarking that there’s “nothing worse than someone busying themselves around you when youre trying to concentrate, is there?” They also live with their daughter Bev (Donna Preston), a childish 30-something-year-old who spends the majority of the episode in a pink, fluffy dressing gown, unsettlingly making eyes at James and playing with dolls.

After a few unusual interactions with the local family, including one in which Stan and Oona give different answers as to when they moved to the area, James begins to suspect theyve got something to hide and could even have been involved in the abduction of baby Ryan all those years ago. And if all that wasnt stressful enough for him, hes also struggling to get information out of a busy runner (Bhavna Limbachia) and needs to prepare for the upcoming scene that could be his big break.

 In last weeks episode of the BBCs Inside Inside No. 9 podcast, Shearsmith & Pemberton teased Hurry Up and Wait (directed by Matt Lipsey) as one of their funnier episodes, and on the surface it does appear to be more lighthearted than usual. Adrian Dunbar plays an Extras-esque version of himself, whos a bit too keen to emphasise that the police officer hes playing in this new series is in no way similar to Ted Hastings (they have different hair, for a start). He also manages to charm his way into stealing almost all of the lines that James has in their brief scene together.

 However, aside from Dunbars rather fun meta role, the episode has an uncomfortable feel to it which never really subsides, plus a chilling last-minute twist that personally left me struggling to get to sleep afterwards. Although every episode of Inside No. 9 takes place in a single location, this one feels even more claustrophobic than usual, unfolding in a cramped, cluttered caravan where bathroom activities can be heard from the living room, and James cant possibly leave in case he misses his call to set. Theres also the thought of a missing baby hanging over the proceedings, and Shearsmith & Pemberton slip in some nice references to the ethics of dramatising true crime. Over the course of the episode, James goes from reassuring Oona that the series will be sensitively done because its written by Jeff Pope (who incidentally wrote The Widower starring Shearsmith) to casually describing the babys abduction as a really great cliffhanger for the end of ep one.

In comparison to what has preceded in series 6, this is an Inside No. 9 episode thats perhaps unlikely to become anyones new favourite (unless youre Adrian Dunbars number 1 fan), but its a reasonably solid entry nonetheless. Not least because it has a final twist so disturbing that it will probably split the audience between never wanting to watch the episode again and racing to do an immediate rewatch

   Inside No.9 Continues Monday at 9.30pm on BBC Two

               Contributed by Sophie Davies.


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