Is improvised drama too much of a risk?
BBC1’s new drama gives us short bursts into five individuals love lives – or lack thereof as the case may be. The fact that its wholly improvised and only 30 minutes long (just) means that there’s a lot to convey in a short space of time and relies on the actors to tell us the story – without the cleverly crafted words of a writer to fall back on. Which unfortunately at times the lack of a script is all too obvious as stilted conversations and long wistful looks at the landscape (as lovely as that is) convey.
The first episode centres on Nick (David Tennant) whose happy marriage and family with Ruth (Joanna Froggatt) are compromised when his first true love Serena (Vicky McClure) turns up out of the blue to see him. Caught up in their reignited feelings they discuss the possibility of having the future that should have been years ago. But is it really possible to forget the years past and changes in circumstance to pick up where they left off? Realistically not in this case. But that doesn’t stop them having one last fling before they each return to their respective lives, where “Sorry” it would seem is sufficient enough to placate his upset wife.
The acting of Tennant and that of the cast is all well and good, but the lack of scripted direction really did show in this episode. As much as an actor tells a story through their eyes and facial expressions, (And as much as I enjoyed it – and I did to a point!), in a short piece like this I couldn’t help having the feeling of; “You’ve only got thirty minutes, get on with it”.
As you will see in future episodes some actors shine in the improvisation more than others, and for those that don’t there’s nowhere to hide if your co-star is acting you off the screen. That said though its a brave move for all the actors taking part to have the guts to put themselves on the line, one which as Bafta winning Director Dominic Savage pointed out in a recent interview; many actors shied away from.
I think for most having the former Doctor Who in the drama was set to be a highlight, unfortunately too much “mood” music, sweeping landscapes and basically every option to convey the story that wasn’t being spoken in words didn’t make up for the story which felt like it was missing key elements.
Joanna Froggatt and Lacey Turner both do well in the small parts they have, injecting some of the much needed emotion. However it doesn’t fix what’s missing.
Watch out for Lacey in the next episode who really does flourish in the improvisation