A quick post to add my voice to the many thousands of other fans delighted that This is England makes its return on Sunday 13 September (9pm on Channel 4). Reviewers have said that Shane Meadows’ semi-autobiographical film and follow-up tv shows have been so successful because this is a gang we all want to be part of. I remember being nervous in the council estates in my home town. Even as a child I realised I wasn’t a part of it. It all seemed alien to this emotionally repressed middle-class kid – the close-knit families who did enormous favours for each other with no complaints, calling your Mum’s friends Aunty, kids playing out in the street until all hours, shouting, swearing, crying, sometimes private tensions bubbling over into violence made public. You’d never have gotten anything like that on my street. When we were really cross we might tut.
This is England puts all these passions on display, but played out so naturalistic it’s never over-the-top. The characters are authentic, not stereotyped. The excellent writing and unique style (Meadows actively discourages the cast from learning their lines instead giving them emotional places they need to get to in a scene or saying that there’s going to be a fight) is helped enormously by the actors who have lived it for themselves – the majority came from Nottingham’s TV Workshop and credit Meadows with changing their lives, from disadvantaged kids to award-winning careers.
The world of This is England is filled with love, friendship and loyalty, cut though with devastating ‘what the fuck just happened?’ moments familiar to everyone when a good night goes bad, when a friendship sours or when someone’s true purpose is revealed. Stephen Graham’s Combo is an acting masterclass as he deftly manipulates young Shaun’s (Thomas Turgoose) grief with his warped beliefs . Vicky McClure says she can’t watch Lol’s final harrowing scenes in This is England ’88 and I’m not surprised. Meadows is unflinching, sometimes you have to watch through your fingers.
Safe to say the franchise is a classic. Can This is England ’90 possibly avoid disappointing a devoted audience? I’ll be sorry to see it end, but I can’t wait to watch the complete set. It’d be a grueling but truly uplifting marathon.
Daisy Leverington’s love letter to This is England in Standard Issue Magazine is wonderful, and made me realise I needed to add my voice too.