Monday, 13 August 2012

Accused, BBC1, starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham PREVIEW

Stephen Graham, Sean Bean
Tony (Stephen Graham) and Tracie (Sean Bean). Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★★½

BBC1: Tuesday, 14 August, 9pm

Story: Simon is a teacher by day and Tracie by night, a lonely tranvestite. She meets Tony, and though the relationship is complicated, Tracie thinks happiness may be close, until events take a tragic turn.

Tracie's Story – the opener for this new four-part series – is a gobsmacking and daring drama.

And that's not just because it has the headline-grabbing prospect of Sean Bean –Yorkshire hardman and Game of Thrones' Lord Stark – playing slightly against type as a transvestite, but that it is also a tender, funny and tragic story about a scorned type of love.

We first meet Tracie on a lonely night out, calling everyone 'love' and running into the all too predictable hostility of a group of lads on a stag night. Less predictably, one of the revellers, satellite and aerial engineer Tony, comes to Tracie's aid and offers her a lift in his taxi.

Sean Bean in make-up
Stephen Graham is a long way from Al Capone here
Realising that Tony is interested, Tracie invites him in to her house. A rocky relationship develops between two lonely people, Tony being played by Stephen Graham, another actor stepping out of his familiar roles as macho sociopaths such as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire.

When a writer with the kudos of Jimmy McGovern, the man behind such TV greats as Cracker and The Street, is at the helm of a series, then top talent is clearly ready to step out of their comfort zone because of the quality of the drama.

This is his second series of Accused, each episode written by McGovern and another writer (Shaun Duggan, Carol Cullington, Danny Brocklehurst, Isabelle Grey). The format of the series is that the story will end up in court with the principal character accused of a crime, and here we see flash-forwards of Tracie, or Simon as he is by day, in the dock.

Sean Bean as Simon/Tracie
Tony – the 'most boring man on the planet'
Dark side of love
The story spirals towards tragedy when Tracie realises that Tony has lied to her about his wife having died. Karen (Rachel Leskovac) is alive and working as a beautician, whom Tracie visits for a makeover.

Simon, a teacher and 'the most boring man on the planet', is lonely, hoping that perhaps Tony might be the one to chose to openly have a relationship with a man who risks opprobrium to dress as a woman – 'because that's who I am'. Tony is lonely in a marriage of 12 years, with a wife he loves and does not want to hurt, and is finally pushed to desperation.

This is a high-class drama, unsentimental but moving. And it's great to see good actors really stretched to create such compelling characters.

'Touching story about a complicated man' – Sean Bean
Sean Bean reveals that he wasn't interested in the role at first: “I had a call from my agent saying, ‘Do you fancy playing a transvestite?’ I said, ‘Not really, why?’

'But as soon as she said it was a Jimmy McGovern project, who I’ve wanted to work with for a while, I was interested. The script was brilliant, and very moving. It’s a really touching story about a complicated man. He has a relationship with another man, which develops into deep love, and then spirals out of control into something quite dark and disturbing.'

'It’s a grown up story about identity and about being true to who you are.'

In coming weeks the line-up will include Anne Marie Duff, Olivia Colman, John Bishop, Sheridan Smith and Anna Maxwell Martin. Don't miss it.