Apple Tree Yard, Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 7/10

Cast: Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, Mark Bonnar, Susan Lynch, Olivia Vinall, Stephen Elder, Jack Hamilton, Syreeta Kumar, Assad Zaman, Kezia Burrows, Steffan Rhodri, Adeel Akhtar, Rhashan Stone, Lydia Leonard, Nick Sampson, Frances Tomelty, Laure Stockley, Sebastian Armesto, Denise Gough, Adrian Lukis.

The problem with putting on a drama on the television, no matter how well intentioned, is that in some respects the pace of the script feels disjointed, it can either be too fast and therefore lose the viewer’s attention by being overly complicated or too slow and then being the type of programme in which the person enduring the ongoing situation is forced to believe that many of the scenes or characters could have been cut or not bothered with at all.

That is the issue facing Apple Tree Yard, a well intentioned drama based upon the book by Louise Doughty and one that with a cast such as Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, Adeel Akhtar and Mark Bonnar gracing its cavernous yarn should have been quite simply a moment of terrific storytelling, instead what the producers and the director have fallen into is the trap faced by many modern films, one that concentrates the viewer’s mind upon the almost abundant and seemingly rampant sex that comes with any affair of the heart.

Yes sex is needed to set the scene, to lay down the ground rules of the ensuing engagement to come but it also acts as detraction to the story; it only serves to add excess flesh, an overbearing of weight to what could be a lean and well preserved piece of television. Sex in this case only serves as a turn off, the pleasure of such entanglements is met with a curious middle class eye on the world and whilst the absolute horror inflicted upon Dr. Yvonne Carmichael, played with a sense of wonderful anguish by Emily Watson, by Stephen Elder’s George Selway, the moments of treachery between the two protagonists are given a glow of over exaggerated warmth which is at times unsettling and slightly nauseating.

The court room scenes also feel contrived, the fact that both Dr. Carmichael and Mark Costley, played by Ben Chaplin are in the dock together with no sense of barrier between them, even though the defence is one of mental detachment, is again a step too far to believe in seriously.

The four part series could have quite easily been wrapped up in two or three episodes and apart from some great acting by Ms. Watson and Mark Bonnar, the story was left as a little bereft of a proper motor to keep the story ticking along at a more natural pace; one that in reality might have been better served by cinema having had the honour of showing.

Ian D. Hall