A tremendous first instalment of a four part drama series starring Robbie Coltrane as much loved comedian Paul Finchley, who is accused of rape dating back to the 90s. It was a narrative about the cult of celebrity, fame and unquestionably Operation Yewtree. The latter being a police investigation that looked into sexual abuse allegations, predominately the abuse of children by British media celebrities. The most infamous example here of such an abuser is the late Jimmy Savile.
Coltrane gave an absolute acting masterclass in this role as Paul, what with both his comedy persona dismantled and his human dignity crumbling. First, we saw him at an awards ceremony being loved and admired by his peers. He was the classic comedy performer wracked with tonnes self-doubt though. He worried to his wife Marie, played by the always brilliant Julie Walters, that he had made a fool of himself on stage rather than being funny.
We saw his comedy persona in full force as he obliged and delivered his well-known comedy catchphrase to a taxi driver who pestered him incessantly to do it. This was all in stark contrast to when he later refused an identical request some time afterwards, his world now in utter turmoil following his arrest. Coltrane was superb in his role as a man whose world had just been turned upside down because the sexual allegations made against him. He was disorientated, desperate and his life now stripped bare with nowhere to hide.
Along with Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters, I thought Paul’s solicitor Jerome Sharpe played by Babou Ceesay, was great in his role. He was amusingly direct and very upfront with Paul. It did make me laugh when one minute we saw him go on a swearing rant about the media and police, then the next greet Paul’s wife Marie, politely as a choirboy.
It was very well written and well acted but it was its distinctive style that made it standout for me as a fantastic production. Stylistically speaking, this one of strongest television dramas that I ever have seen. The striking sound and mise-en-scene elements(camera, lighting, staging etc), made it remind me at times of an art house film.
In terms of this distinctive style, there were deliberate repetitive close-up shots of inside the front door when it was knocked on from the outside. Accompanied with menacing music, the camera edged slowly towards the door warily. This put us in the shoes of Paul and how he was feeling. It gave connotations of claustrophobia, victimisation and trepidation at who was on the other side of the door.
Throughout there were also numerous close-up shots of Paul Finchley’s face, particularly when he was being interviewed by the police. These shots served to magnify the point that here was man stripped of all his former dignity. He had nowhere to hide, his jolly comedy mask had now been replaced by one of extreme vulnerability.
There were several attempts to convey the sense of disorientation that Paul was experiencing following the allegations made against him. For example, in the police interview room sunlight glaring through the windows was sharp and blinding. Sound was pivotal here too. There was this impressive scene where we saw Paul walking down a street but around him was this great cacophony of echoey street noise. We heard birds singing loudly and a motorbike at full throttle whizzing past. Again, all done to magnify this uncertain new world that Paul now found himself in.
The most striking visual image of the entire first episode was when the ending credits were rolling. Here we saw a horrified looking Robbie Coltrane as Paul, half naked from the waist up having a shower. The significant thing here though was that the water traveled upwards rather than downwards upon him. This gave me connotations that rather than having a shower to wash away his sins, the water traveling upwards signified that his sins were now being revisited. It was another clever stylistic tool that heightened the impact of the piece.
Overall, an excellent drama that makes episode two an absolute must-see. Paul Finchley has NOWHERE TO HIDE, which thus makes this such an intriguing watch! 4/5.