If I told you that starting on Monday is one of the best, most compelling, well crafted and beautifully acted pieces of drama so far this year you’d be pretty excited wouldn’t you? If I told you the title of the drama is One Night you’d probably look at me blankly. I can forgive your blank expression though as the BBC have done little to no promotion to ensure this programme gets the viewer ship it deserves. Its almost as if they don’t want to be showing it at all! If that is the case then I can’t fathom for the life of me why that would be. Even the scheduling of it is truly bizarre. The four episodes are being shown over four nights next week in a ridiculously late timeslot usually designated for documentaries or repeats. Having been given the opportunity to see all four episodes I was left scratching my head at the choices with the scheduling. Why put something this good, this interesting, this strong on so late at night?? I’d like to tell you its because this or that but it makes no sense whatsoever! For the past year BBC dramas have been introduced under the tagline “Original British Drama” and One Night is certainly that, its better than some of the recent dramas and better than upcoming Kay Mellor offering The Syndicate.
Writer Paul Smith’s four-part drama centres around the events of one hot summer night and how it affects four very different people. The four episodes tell the story of that night from the four different points of view but such is a the strength of the writing and acting here that each episode feels like a standalone drama. With each episode we see the characters in different lights and it builds brilliantly to the conclusion. Smith has written characters that are real and three dimensional with Jessica Hynes and young actor Billy Matthews giving what just might be two of the best performances of the year.
In the opening episode we meet Ted (played brilliantly with Douglas Hodge). Ted is a man whose future looks uncertain after difficult time at work, He’s a wound up mess on the verge of a breakdown. Ted is driven even closer to the edge when he catches four teenage girls dropping litter on the road outside his home. Ted’s brief but fiery exchange with the girls sets off a chain events that puts him in a venerable position that he could have never foreseen. Such is the caliber of the Smith’s writing here that you really empathize with each character and you become immersed in each world. There’s a palpable air of tension that runs through each story and even in its slower moments I was never bored, uninterested or fed up.
Jessica Hynes (who’ve I’ve not seen in many serious roles) is electrifying as single mum Carol who is miserable at work in a Supermarket and encounters each of the characters. There’s an amazing scene when Carol takes to the stage for a standup comedy spot. A lengthy scene that is funny and agonizing in equal measure and stands out as one of the most interesting scenes I’ve seen so far this year. I know what you’re thinking there must be something I disliked about One Night? Well not really no, aside from its 10.35 timeslot.
By the final episode which can be seen at 10.35pm after a repeat of BBC favourite New Tricks (the mind boggles) you’ll be both desperate to know the outcome and overwhelmed by the talents of the young cast. You meet Alfie in episode 1 and he features in the majority of the series but it isn’t until the final episode that we really see who he is and how his life is treating him. I predict big things for Billy Smith he plays Alife with a realism and truth that almost made me ache.