Have You Been Watching.. The Slap

THE SLAP: Thursday 24th November, BBC4, 10pm

What with the ridiculous hype for the second series of The Killing, the rest of BBC4’s recent output has been cast into a televisual shadow. Don’t get me wrong, the doom-laden Danish powerhouse looks set to bewitch us again based on the first two episodes, yet one of the drama events of the TV year has gone largely unnoticed. I am talking of Australian eight-parter The Slap, which has passed the halfway mark with impressive gusto.

The mountain of books by the side of my bed meant I had to pass on reading the original book from Christos Tsiolkas, something I am glad of. Much like the Harry Potter series on the silver screen, my brain has been totally devoid of the adaptation bias that could have potentially ruined my small screen experience. From what friends who have read the book tell me, it follows the same style of splitting the story up into the viewpoints of eight key characters.

This type of approach can often derail the main thematic element running through a programme; however the screenwriters and directors appear to have avoided this curse. The booming, somewhat comic, voiceover that also bookends each episode could niggle but doesn’t. Starting out with the character of Hector on the day of the plot-fuelling incident is a clever move. Jonathan LaPaglia embodies the frustrations of a virile man turning 40 wonderfully, his clumsy attempts to reconnect with a youth spent playing the field spot on His performance and the feel of this drama echoed that of his Hollywood brother Anthony in the Australian film “Lantanaâ€?, my celluloid pick of the year in 2002 when it came out.

There is a phenomenal scene in that film where LaPaglia senior runs full pelt into someone jogging around the corner that jolts you out of your seat. The slap of the title has a similar effect with former Heartbreak High heartthrob Alex Dimitriades delivering the narrative catalyst as Hector’s macho cousin Harry. His hairline further back and his dramatic chops meatier after an eclectic stage and screen education Down Under, Dimitriades is a revelation especially in the third episode where we become immersed in his conflicted world. One reason why his character jumps off the screen is the strong counterpoint of aggrieved bohemian couple Gary and Rosie.

As played by native film favourite Anthony Hayes and Los Angeles star attraction Melissa George, the liberal mollycoddlers are a potent combination who see little currency in letting Harry off the hook for his physical abuse of their out-of-control son Hugo. Switching focus to the female characters given an episode to show their thespian qualities, Essie Davis brings a welcome dose of understated acting to her character of Anouk in the second stanza. Much like Hector, she does not want to slip into her middle-age straight-jacket. Living with the star of the successful soap she writes for, she struggles to deal with her ailing mother and novel aspirations nagging at her brittle mind. Add in Sophie Lowe’s delightfully dreamy interpretation of Hector’s young muse Connie in the fourth episode, where gay best friend Richie (Blake Davis) plays a pivotal role, and the drama goes up another notch.

What of British actress Sophie Okonedo, you may ask? Even though her accent is not as convincing as I would have liked, she has anchored the story thus far in the role of Hector’s wife Aisha while everyone erupts around her. Unaware of her husband’s infatuation with Connie and saddled with the dual burden of her in-laws’ meddling and best friend’s upcoming court case, the scene is set beautifully for her character to react in the remaining four episodes. No doubt fans of the book will be up in arms with certain elements of the adaptation up to the halfway point, however I urge you to catch up on it and sit tight for the dramatic fireworks to come.

Matthew Ogborn is the founder and editor of www.thesportcollective.com, you can follow him on Twitter @mattogborn