Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Arrgghh! She’s got Sean Bean eyes
The Accused (BBC1 Tue 14 August) was a drama that will be long remembered – and not just because it featured manly Sean Bean dressed up as a woman.
It told the adventures of a gay man (Bean) who is a rather unglamorous teacher of poetry by day and a gaudy transvestite by night.
It was generally well written by Liverpool’s Jimmy McGovern, apart from one or two scenes towards the end, which I’ll come to later.
I'm pleased that mainstream British TV can still do socially-engaged drama such as this example in The Accused anthology series.
This offering was about many things that people today (more people than we realise) find hard – gender identity, loneliness, sexuality (rarely a straightforward matter, as it goes), and workplace alienation (very common indeed, in my opinion).
The drama was brilliantly cast. Sean Bean's a great actor. Some silly people might say he was “brave” to take on this role. I’m not going to say that, obviously, because there is nothing brave about being an actor. They get paid for dressing up and pretending to be other people – bravery doesn’t come into it.
But I do think Bean did a lot of powerfully subtle acting as transvestite Tracie, who picks up men in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink kind of way among the vulgar bars of central Manchester.
The humanity of the character’s situation was put across well by Bean, and, of course, by the writer Jimmy McGovern, who knows a thing or two about being an outsider and struggling with life.
The drama was only an hour long, so the story had to be swiftly told. Basically, our Tracie gets into a relationship with a married man who is secretly gay, and maybe also hating himself for being gay.
Stephen Graham was well cast as married man Tony, whose wife finds out he’s been having sex with Tracie. Tony then knifes his wife to death. Mercifully that isn’t shown; merely the bloody aftermath.
The story is inter-laced with an unfolding court case where Tracie is accused of being an accessory to the murder. And, for me, the court case sections were less than successfully handled by McGovern.
Tracie gets off the murder rap because she appears in court in drag with false nails, high stilettos etc. How, she demands of the jury, could she have had anything to do with the body in the boot of the car when she was dressed like that?
The jury buy it. They are right to, of course, because Tracie is innocent of any murderous intentions or actions, but it hardly seems a procedurally accurate or likely court scene.
At this point McGovern makes another mistake. He has Tracie stand up in court and say that Tony – also on a murder rap – is refusing to exonerate her because he is afraid that doing so would mark him out as a “nonce” in prison, and therefore bring him harsh treatment.
For me, the word “nonce” was the wrong one to use here. I think in prison terms, and generally, “nonce” is better understood and much more widely used to describe the sexual abusers of children – not men who occasionally have sex with very grown up gay transvestites.
Apart from those criticisms, I enjoyed this. McGovern managed to give us all food for thought about how hard it is to be human, to be governed by passions that aren’t rational.
I also liked the modern poetry of some of the script, and the fact that former teacher McGovern also took a satirical swipe at fuddy-duddy old-style poetry.
I would have liked to have seen a little more moral purpose in the script overall – for example a hint about the folly of always pleasing the self and following one’s carnal desires without thinking through the consequences for other people.
But you can’t have everything in an hour of drama.
And I do hope Sean Bean will reprise this role, perhaps by working poolside at in the ITV comedy series Benidorm. He would certainly give Time Healy a run for his money as the least likely transvestite in the whole of Europe.