TELEVISION REVIEW / Give them an 'A' for spelling out the Troubles
Friday 08 July 1994
Shankill (C4), a profile of the province's Unionist heartland, was a bit of a surprise, then, though not because it spent its time picking over the finer minutiae of rituals at the altar. It's just that someone bothered to spell out a basic difference between the way the communities are shaped by their systems of belief. The camera stalked up and down the Shankill Road, spotting 23 denominational variations on the Protestant theme, bearing out the theory of the cultural commentator that theirs is a religion based on individual salvation, whereas Catholicism has a stronger communal spirit and, by extension, a more focused leadership. Pretty obvious stuff, but it was handy to have it spelt out for once.
The keynote of this bleak but obstinately positive documentary, like the companion piece that Mary Holland and Michael Whyte made in 1979 about the Catholic neighbourhood in Creggan, was its mild-manneredness. It was, after all, as much about how Protestants live with one another as how they live with the enemy. A camera toured along the street fronts, taking in the fist-clenched slogans daubed on the sides of houses - 'No Surrender', 'King William III 1690', 'One Faith', 'One Crown', 'UFF Rocket Team On Tour 94' - but Holland's deliberate decision was to exclude fire-breathers and meet only moderates.
In an area blighted by a stratospheric level of failure at the 11 Plus, it's impossible for a non-resident to assess how true a picture is painted by the high level of articulateness that results from such a policy. Despite last year's Shankill Road bombing, which meant interviewees had grim tales to pass on, there seemed to be an almost unrealistic absence of hate - even in the taxi driver who pulled three corpses from the rubble, only to discover later that they belonged to his niece, her husband and their daughter.
When the heads stopped talking and the camera started, we got a different story. A little girl sat in on the practice session of a flute band, imbibing early that impoverished, windily militaristic sound. At the Orange Day parade, a big bass drummer marched with his eyes bulging in the defiant effort of fanaticism. And in the funeral procession the local worthies in bowler hats stopped in front of the bombed fish shop, and the tide of miserable faces that lined the street did not speak of moderation.
A short drama going by the rather desperate look-at-me title of Wingnut and the Sprog followed promptly as part of the same season, but it might have come not just from a different city but a different country. This was not just because the accents were sometimes so thick that we could have handled the odd subtitle. In Shankill there were very few crowd scenes, giving an impression of depletion and decay, and almost no cars were seen in the terraced streets. Through the fast talking of a gang of teenage non-actors and a script by Marie Jones, loyalist Belfast blossomed into life, like an oddball tableau by Bill Forsyth.
The set-piece moment of wacky Celtic mirth came when Wingnut, a yakking ne'er-do-well, was nearly caught in possession of a drugged dog in a pram in the middle of the night by a military patrol. The half-hour, one-off drama, in which plot and characters are deprived of elbow-room, is not easy to pull off: but here location combined with impenetrable dialogue to hint at untold depths.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures