Last Night's Viewing: The Riots: In Their Own Words, BBC2
Ruth Rendell's Thirteen Steps Down, ITV1

 

The Riots: In Their Own Words began with a clip of the Prime Minister giving voice to the national bemusement just a few days after the disturbances of last summer: "The question hangs in the air – why?" An hour later it was still hanging there, some individual answers having been offered by Alecky Blythe and Fatima Salaria's verbatim documentary, but no grand collective ones.

The method, as in Blythe's theatre works, was to use actors to voice an edited selection of interviews with rioters, replicating every intonation and hesitation – the dramatisation taking the place of the pixellation that would usually allow the guilty to speak candidly without fear of incriminating themselves.

The acting was exceptionally good, with very few of the "interviewees" displaying the betraying smoothness that sometimes mars simulated spontaneity. And Blythe's involvement seems to have ensured that the exercise would not be drearily sociological. There were moments of preserved comedy, as the earnestness of the interviewers grated against the self-dramatisation of some of their subjects. Asked where he'd gone when he heard about the disturbances, one furious man replied: "Straight to the combat zone, straight to the damage zone!" "So... do you mean Tottenham?" his interviewer said quizzically, more concerned with geography than justice.

It would have been foolish to expect very advanced powers of self-analysis from interviewees self-selected by their impulsivity, but no two explanations were exactly the same. Some claimed to feel indignation at the failure to take the protest over Mark Duggan's shooting seriously: "C'mon," said one man. "If the Queen was going to get snipered it would be a madness, you get me like? There's going to be some outcome quicker than what happened with Mark." Others, such as a middle-aged white mother (parent-governor in her local school), were moved by curiosity. She'd roped in her 14-year-old daughter to go and see what was happening and seemed blithely unconcerned that this might be seen as a dereliction of parental duty: "It was quite enjoyable," she said. "It was really enjoyable actually."

One general truth was that most people didn't see a mob on the streets. They saw their own community. And when that community started a frenzied kind of Supermarket Sweep, very few resisted the temptation to join in. "I'm getting all this free stuff," recalled a young girl, "and you're not going to get caught because there's so many people doing it." One man looted JD Sports, he claimed, "because they didn't want to recruit me when I was looking for a job." Another explained how he decided that looting from the looters would be easier than all that grubbing around on shop floors.

Shame or a sense of remorse was depressingly rare. One character claimed he felt it, but then went straight on to this: "At least I can tell my kids when I'm older, my grandkids, yeah, well, I been involved in a riot. Nice little story for them, yeah? You know, like the World War II and that, with my great-grandad?" Short on self-knowledge, certainly, but perhaps also a clue to one of the motives that lay beneath many of these accounts. They just wanted to be in a more interesting narrative, and last summer the riots gave them their chance.

Ruth Rendell's Thirteen Steps Down has a strangely chirpy set of titles for a psychological thriller, but its lead character, Mix, soon puts you right, with his creepy obsession with the serial killer John Reginald Christie. It's classic Spooky Oboe drama, complete with spectral appearances, gothic lightning and one of those "now look what you've made me do" murders. Personally, I think Danila's alarm bells should have rung when Mix put Cliff Richard's "The Young Ones" on the turntable in his eerily tidy flat. Instead, she wound him up and wound up under the floorboards.

twitter.com/tds153

The Riots: In Their Own Words BBC2 Ruth Rendell's Thirteen Steps Down ITV1

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests