TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Voyage to the end of Empire

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The Independent Culture
THE LEAVING OF LIVERPOOL (9.30pm BBC1) kicked up a storm when it was shown in Australia, becoming the highest rated mini-series of last year. The two-part ABC-BBC co-production (written by John Alsop and Sue Cook, who wrote the similar and similarly effective Brides of Christ) tells of a handful of the thousands of British orphans who were forcibly dispatched to Australia in the 1940s and 1950s (the practice continued until 1967).

The words to bear in mind here are 'mini-series', with all the limitations that implies: a tendency to superfluous melodrama (why have a boy fall overboard on the voyage out?) and a remorseless anonymity to the overall production. Isn't there an auteur in the house?

This would be perfect territory for the likes of Dennis Potter or Alan Bleasdale. However, you'll be saved from leaving your armchair by the power of the story itself, eye-opening details of the cruelty of the Empire Builders (the children, for example, all had their tonsils needlessly removed before repatriation), and the excellent young leads - Christine Tremarco and Kevin Jones, neither of whom have acted in front of camera before.

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