Banished – BBC 2

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Word PressOK, I think we all get that a penal colony – in Australia, 1788 – wasn’t a 5 star hotel, but this really was grim … but strangely gripping too, in the way that, say, the parts of Forever Amber when Amber’s struggling with poverty are. Jimmy McGovern – who usually writes about the North of England – chose to focus on the relationships between men and women, which was an interesting approach: we saw these poor women, many of them transported for being prostitutes, being expected to sell their bodies for food and favours from the troops, yet none of them came across as being downtrodden. Even the vicar’s wife seemed pretty feisty. The main storyline in this first episode was that the male and female convicts weren’t allowed to associate, except in the case of married couples, but one couple refused to stay apart. So the governor had the woman whipped and said that the man was going to be hanged. They said they’d get married. Sorted! Er, no – each of them had a spouse back in England, so the vicar/chaplain refused to perform the wedding ceremony, on the reasonable enough grounds that it would be bigamous. So the governor said that the vicar would have to carry out the hanging. The vicar’s wife got him to change his mind, and he performed the bigamous marriage. No hanging. Sorted after all. And a lot of 21st-century-sounding swearing. Yes, it was grim, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom and misery – the convicts all stood up for themselves, and some of it was even quite funny. Period dramas can’t all be big houses and posh frocks, and this is certainly something different.

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