True life kidnapping drama makes for thrilling TV show

2017-05-02 13:38

Johannesburg - In 2008 Shannon Matthews, a nine year-old girl, disappeared from The Moorside Estate in the town of Dewsbury in the UK. Her abduction was a story that gripped the local community and the nation, with the ongoing saga splashed across the front page of every tabloid at the time.

It made international headlines when Shannon was eventually found and it transpired that her own mother had conspired with her boyfriend’s uncle to kidnap her, in an apparent plan to claim the reward money. The community and the country were understandably outraged.

Almost 10 years later, this intriguing drama has been brought to the small screen by writer Neil McKay and director Paul Whittington and stars Sheridan Smith (The Huntsman), Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones), Sian Brooke (Sherlock) and Siobhan Finneran (O'Brien in Downton Abbey).

Broadcast recently in the UK to critical acclaim, the two-part The Moorside will be shown in South Africa on ITV Choice (DStv 123) from Wednesday, 3 May at 20:00. The key focus is not the abduction, nor the subsequent arrests, but the tireless hunt for Shannon and the seemingly boundless altruism of Julie Bushby (Smith), the woman who fiercely led the community search for the little girl.

Watch the trailer here:

Julie, a personification of maternal love, is so desperate to see the good in people and to remain optimistic, that she refuses to acknowledge that Karen, Shannon’s mother (Whelan) is behaving oddly, while Karen’s friend Natalie (Brooke) becomes increasingly suspicious of her. Also on the case is DC Christine Freeman, played by Finneran.

What the critics say

UK critics have been almost unanimous in their praise for the show and the casts' performances with The Guardian saying: "It’s getting boring, plus hard to avoid clichés, when gushing about Smith – her range, her extraordinary humanness, her ability not just to play someone but to inhabit them, to be heroic without being sentimental. But she is, to nick one of her own lines, 'fucking brilliant or what'. Big shout-outs also must go to Sian Brooke who plays Natalie Brown and to Gemma Whelan, whose Karen is not the evil woman the real one was made out to be – more immature, naive, weak, easily manipulated ... and yet she did manage to con a lot of people for a long time, so she can’t be stupid."

The Telegraph said of the series: "Powerful, brilliant and full justice to the story of Shannon Matthews's abduction," while Radio Times described it as, “a gritty, captivating tour de force."
Catch The Moorside on Wednesday, 3 May at 20:00 on ITV Choice (DStv 123).

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