Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
Cast: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Timothy West, Anne Reid, Ophelia Lovibond, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Katherine Parkinson, Tom Key, Luke Pasqualino, Anna Chancellor, Marc Wooton, Ben Willbond.
There is something quite wonderfully chilling in having Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton back on television together. Even without their League of Gentlemen co-star Mark Gatiss around, the chemistry, the pleasing abundance of visual darkness and comedy that filters through to make great and worthy programmes is enough to make you weep tears of joy as you become yet again embroiled into their latest world.
Inside No 9 is a near perfect homage to the world of Roald Dahl and The Tales of the Unexpected that was bought to television viewers in the 1970s and 80s and the first episode, Sardines, would have been surely looked upon with a fascinated glee by the master story teller. If every tale of darkness and unanticipated happenings is as good as this one, or even within range of it, then this surely will see Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton back to where they have belonged all the time, coveted and praised for the ideas they bring to a keyboard.
Sardines may be a game, a rather frustrating parlour game in which there is no winner but in the world of Shearsmith and Pemberton, plenty of losers but it makes for great claustrophobia, the chance to be stuck inside a tight confined space with someone you may not even like and waiting with them till found by the next person should come along.
In Sardines, the collection of people inside the closet range from the unflattering to the very familiar and all of whom have their own particular distastes and unfortunate memories, especially the lone wolf, the one with the most terrible secret of them all…and it’s never who you think it is, ignore them at your peril. Reece Shearsmith is marvellous as Stu and Anne Reid yet again shows how much she brings to any role she undertakes as Geraldine. As the closet becomes more crowded, as the final person finds their way into the box, the key turns finally and the lasting image is one of beautiful revenge. A chilling shot which equalled some of the finer episodes of Tales of the Unexpected and in particular the episodes Lamb To The Slaughter and Royal Jelly.
As Michael Frayn wrote in Noises Off, “Life is like a plate of sardines…” Inside No 9 is the perfect bait in which to catch two really big fish perform and bring their skill back to a wider audience.
Ian D. Hall