TV Pick of the Week: This Town - review by Yvette Huddleston

This TownBBC iPlayer, review by Yvette Huddleston

This new six-part drama from Peaky Blinders creator Stephen Knight is an ambitious, multi-layered, intelligent piece of television. It’s original, compelling and full of heart.

According to its tagline it is about the formation of a new wave band in the West Midlands in the 1980s, but that is just the tip of the iceberg, there is an awful lot more going on here. Young Birmingham college student Dante (Levi Brown) is a bit of an outsider and a dreamer – he calls himself a poet but most of the kids he went to school with, including his feisty friend Jeanie (Eve Austin) just think he is ‘weird’. He lives with his widowed, recovering alcoholic ex-soldier dad Deuce (Nicholas Pinnock) in a flat on a rundown high-rise estate. His older brother Gregory (Jordan Bolger) is a sergeant in the British army on a tour of duty in Belfast. Becoming a soldier was his way out of being drawn into a life of crime.

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Dante is in love with Fiona (Freya Parks) – ‘it’s a medieval love’ he tells his father – she seems uninterested but he nonetheless sets out to woo her with his poetry. Then Jeanie – who is a budding musician – suggests to Dante that she could put some of his words to her music. However, their budding collaboration could soon be stamped on by her violent skinhead boyfriend. The stakes are high and about to get higher.

Levi Brown as Dante Williams in This Town. Picture: Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert ViglaskyLevi Brown as Dante Williams in This Town. Picture: Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert Viglasky
Levi Brown as Dante Williams in This Town. Picture: Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert Viglasky

Dante’s cousin Barden (Ben Rose) lives in Coventry with his tough Irish dad Eamonn (Peter McDonald), who is estranged from his alcoholic mother Estella (Michelle Dockery), heads up a local IRA cell that is amassing weapons and seemingly preparing for something big. Barden is a college student, diligent and focussed, supported by his loving maternal grandmother Marie (Geraldine James), who advises him not to have anything to do with the violence. He doesn’t want to get involved but there is a terrible inevitability about the way things play out. Nothing is easy for these young people. But perhaps music can save them?

At a family funeral Dante asks Barden, who has a fine singing voice, if he would like to form a band with him. He is not averse to the idea. It feels hopeful, then Jordan, who has been followed by Special Branch to the funeral, is put in a terrible position which ramps up the narrative tension another notch. Surprising, confident and totally engaging.

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