TV Review: The Crimson Field; Rev.

First to First World War drama The Crimson Field shown on BBC One last night (9pm). I stumbled across it after being roused from a snooze in front of the Antiques Roadshow, (yes I’m that rock and roll) to the sight of Oona Chaplin throwing a ring into the sea on the trip over to volunteer as a nurse on the frontline in France, 1915. I found myself unexpectedly engrossed throughout. I think Chaplin, playing spiky Kitty, is a mesmerising screen presence, perhaps no surprise given her pedigree. She smoked (!!) and was cool to the other two volunteers frightfully unworldly ways, even taking a dying soldier’s swansong of holding as pair of scissors to her neck in her stride. Then there was Suranne Jones roaring up with her motorbike and jaunty hair and being frightfully modern Sister Joan, much to the chagrin of overlooked Sister Quayle, who turned out to be a baddie. She let poor Corporal Prentiss, suffering from what we would now term Post Traumatic Stress but they then termed Shell Shock and understood little of, return to the Front Line, against her superior’s compassionate orders. Just as bad, she stole the cake one of the young recruits brought and kept it for herself! It was a little disorientating, in that it had a cosy, Sunday night TV feel akin to Call the Midwife but was also set against one of the most bloody and arguably pointless conflicts in history. That fact gave it a poignancy that elevated it from the usual fare and made it quite moving.

To tonight’s Rev. (BBC Two, 10pm) which I love, I think it’s the best comedy on TV at the moment. It gives the feel of gentle comedy but actually has rather more bite than you might expect, a little like the Crimson Field. Tom Hollander is great as the eponymous Rev, trying to please everyone but mostly pleasing no one, battling against the encroaching obsolescence of his role in the inner city. As is Olivia Colman as his wife, who does a very convincing drunk voice. Special mention must go to Jimmy Akingbola as perpetually scrounging crackhead Mick or – as he was known tonight – “Sonata”. He is at once frightful, convincing and completely hilarious and always provides the biggest laughs of the show. Tonight’s episode featured a cameo from Dexter Fletcher, pleasingly husky voiced, as a Turner prize winning artist who offers St Saviour’s a lifeline by choosing it as the venue to unveil his new work. The episode reached an excruciating climax due to the Rev’s guilty conscience and the unfortunate facial similarity between Hollander and Fletcher. Unbearable but brilliant.

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