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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Murder most fair
Julie Walters plays a grieving mother
Murder is written by Abi Morgan

If you have good enough characters, you can get by with familiar tales and familiar ways of developing them.

There is no current soap storyline, for instance, that has not been done before in at least some form yet we are compelled by some stories, bored by others.

The new series Murder is being sold on the notion that it has a new take on the familiar crime drama and it is true, it does.

Once you know it is a murder story, you have seen enough of them that you can count off on your fingers the scenes that must take place: discovery of the body, the detective is woken late at night, the suspects are gathered and so on.

Julie Walters puts in another fine performance
"The episode belongs to Julie Walters"

The trick of this show is that it ignores what is called the police procedural format and instead is a character study.

Each episode revolves around one person or sometimes two who are involved in the murder, beginning with the victim's mother (Julie Walters) and a newspaper journalist (David Morrissey).

The usual case investigation is allowed to continue on in the periphery of the story but the format keeps police contact to a minimum.

That is the gimmick of the show and if that were all, the series would still be an interesting curiosity.

However, having set up the frame for the tale, this small twist on the familiar format actually ignites a vastly deeper and more moving drama.


Walters is unbearably moving

The plot is almost an irrelevance, what works extremely well here is how keeping the camera on the smaller characters humanises them and lets us explore what it is like to be them.

Murder is not without flaws: David Morrissey's troubles with being a newspaperman are too often vocalised by an unseen editor on the phone to him.

But Morrissey and writer Abi Morgan together take what could be a tediously hackneyed role and made it a true character, a genuine person instead of a caricature.

Walters excels

However, this opening episode belongs to Julie Walters as the murdered boy's mother.

She has hysterics but never histrionics, she wails but never exaggerates and at times Walters is unbearably moving.

Abi Morgan, best known previously for My Fragile Heart on television and many theatre successes such as Splendour and Tiny Dynamite, gives Walters simple, pared-down speeches that resonate.

And while Morgan may be more used to theatre, she skilfully plays with television form to let us see the murder juxtaposed with the victim's birthday the previous day.

The result is a startlingly effective and refreshing drama that should see viewers tuning in for next week's character analysis.

Murder is on BBC2 at 21.00 on Wednesday 29 May

See also:

23 Feb 01 | Entertainment
13 Feb 01 | Entertainment
13 Feb 01 | Entertainment
29 Jan 01 | Entertainment
07 Nov 00 | Entertainment
19 May 00 | Entertainment
17 Aug 01 | Entertainment
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