TV review: Dancing on the Edge, BBC2; Black Mirror, Channel 4


Whatever else Dancing on the Edge has taught us – with its exasperating blend of plangency and clumsiness – it is that Stephen Poliakoff is not a natural director of thriller action. Should Hollywood be looking for someone to helm Die Hard 6, they are, I would suggest, unlikely to come knocking at his door.

That's the point of him, of course. The world is full of people who can do car crashes, but writers who can craft moments of enigma are in shorter supply. The last episode of Poliakoff's drama about prejudice and class tourism in pre-war London reminded you of his ability to deliver a scene whose meaning is just tantalisingly out of reach. But it also featured narrative machinery so surreally creaky that you wondered at times whether it would end up being explained away as a dream sequence.

The episode was almost entirely concerned with Louis' escape. The police are convinced that he killed Jessie and the fascinated support of his upper-crust sponsors, Donaldson and Lady Cremone, has melted away to be replaced by a rueful indifference. Only Stanley and Sarah seem prepared to help him, though they go about it in the strangest way imaginable, and aren't helped by Louis' own obtuseness. An example: Stanley arranges a car to spirit Louis away to a hiding place in the suburbs. On the way, Louis, understandably, remonstrates. The manicured avenues of Metroland don't strike him as the best place to conceal a black band leader dressed in white tie and tails. So Stanley stops the car and the two men get out into the street to have a row about it. It proved entirely beyond my capacity to explain why.

Some of the scenes that followed were even stranger. When the police do coincidentally turn up at Louis' hiding place (to respond to a disturbance next door), he didn't conceal himself inside but sauntered away, still in full evening dress, and ended up in a local bowls club. As an on-screen image this was rather good, the epitome of middle-England, all in their whites, staring amazed at this sudden apparition. But as an edge-of-the-seat moment in a drama it was simply incredible. Having instructed Louis to pretend to be her servant, Pamela ordered him about in transparent pantomime and then blew the charade anyway by having him sit down next to her. Poliakoff doesn't just think his bowls club worthies are prejudiced, it seems, he thinks they're utterly dim too. And Louis and Pamela apparently aren't much smarter.

Against that, you'd have to set a moment of real tension (arising out of an unknown psychology rather than an improbable one) when Julian visited Donaldson and showed his two little girls the gun he's brought with him. And you'd throw in too a moment that went against the grain of television realism but delivered a lovely and poignant ending, as Carla sang a Negro spiritual to the assembled stuffed shirts at the hotel. Not entirely sure where the scales settle at the end, but it says something that they hovered at all after scenes of such awkwardness.

In the last of his Black Mirror series, Charlie Brooker pulled off another unexpected turn, setting us up for a crass "all politicians are con artists" satire but leaving you thinking a little harder about the consequences of such blanket cynicism. The storyline featured a melancholy television comic, trapped in the career cul-de-sac of providing the voice for a scabrous animated bear, who conducts Ali G-style interviews with unsuspecting politicians. When his producer decides he should stand in a by-election, he's horrified to discover that the electorate find him more interesting than the issues – his feelings further complicated by the fact that he's fallen for the Labour candidate. Like last week's drama, it felt a little rough around the edges here and there. But I wish we had more roughness like it.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power