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TV review: Accused starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham
Sean Bean in Accused
From acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern, Accused retains its established format: a story told in flashback from the perspective of someone standing accused of a crime. In this premiere, transvestite teacher Simon Gaskell (Sean Bean) stood in the dock, part of a story involving an unexpected love affair with satellite repairman Tony Baines (Stephen Graham).
There was much to choose from, but I'm fond of the moment Simon's high-heeled alter ego Tracie had a makeover with the secret wife of the man he's fallen in love with, using a chinwag to glean information about the extent of Tony's deception.
Hard to pinpoint truly weak moments, but I think more could have been done to foreshadow Tony's darker side when things took a more sinister turn towards the end. Was an offensive brother enough? The drama began to stretch credibility at that point.
I can't have been alone in sniggering at the sight of Sean Bean, masculine hero of Sharpe and Game of Thrones, wearing a blonde wig and heels in the trailer for Accused. However, it proved very shrewd casting the actor against type.
"I can't have been alone in sniggering at the sight of Sean Bean"
Ditto co-star Stephen Graham, best known for playing racist Combo in This Is England and a young Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire.
Jimmy McGovern's sharp and intelligent writing gave them both unexpected roles for Tracie's Story with the actor's repartee and an unpredictable story managing to fill a full hour with ease.
Tracie's Story began as an unconventional love story; proud transvestite Simon/Tracie caught the eye of easy-going Tony after a fracas in a bar started by Tony's prejudiced brother. The two men started a sexual relationship surprisingly quickly; Tony's "you're a long time dead" excuse not being quite enough to have me believe things would move that fast in real life. But I guess stranger things have happened.
The awful truth
For the most part, it felt credible enough; Tony gripped by passion and excited by the taboo, escaping a sham marriage to have stolen moments with Tracie, who in turn found her existence invigorated by the affections of someone who seemed to offer a chance happiness and acceptance.
"Tony gripped by passion and excited by the taboo..."
I loved how Tracie's humdrum classes at school, reading poetry to disinterested kids as teacher Mr Gaskell (his actual disguise), became more passionate as the relationship with Tony deepened.
Later in the hour, it became impossible to watch Tracie's Story without predicting the situation with Simon/Tracie in court.
When the answers came, it felt like a hammer blow; poor Simon was wrongly accused of murder. Tony had murdered his wife rather than confess to a homosexual affair ("I killed her because I couldn't hurt her") and Simon/Tracie had witnessed the deplorable aftermath.
On reflection, this drama felt like a dramatisation of a Take A Break article. All the key ingredients were there: transvestism, sex, an affair, murder. It may have been a slightly trashy story that stretched believability at times, but it was also engrossing, often quite stirring, contained two soulful performances, and came laced with memorable moments.
- Verdict: Thought-provoking and lifted by strong performances.
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