In God’s country

Brian Cox as Edward Noyland

I Anyone concerned that Channel 4’s

major drama offerings were about to pursue a course of lush triviality in the wake of The Camomile Lawn will be heartened by The Big Battalions, the station’s autumn saga. It marks a return to the big issues tackled in previous series like GBH and Traffik, and there’s not a pouting 20s lovely in sight.

The issues this time around are faith and fanaticism, set against a background of religious turmoil in Britain, Africa and the Holy Land. Small-scale it ain’t. In fact it's probably producer Brian Eastman’s most

ambitious project in a career that has included Porterhouse Blue, Trallik and Poirot on TV and Under Suspicion lor the cinema.

Brian Cox plays Edward Hoyland, an ambitious and self-centred cleric who finds himself caught up in an international religious struggle when his estranged wile is kidnapped in Ethiopia. Hoyland isn’t exactly the

Terry Waite type as Cox admits. ‘I don’t : thinkthe Church of England will like the

coals being raked,’ he says. ‘Edward Hoyland is a man who is incredibly driven by his own ambition, but who

' has lost his laith. At the end there’s a ; big discoverywaitinglorhim.’

In the past the ‘8’ word has been

regarded as somewhat unsexy, and

dramatists have invariably steered clear of matters spiritual. Cox believes the novelty of The Big Battalions’

subject matter could be an asset. ‘What

this script does,’ he says, ‘is to mirror events. It mirrors the present. It’s a rich mixture and the characters became pretty lull-blooded. It is also an ambitious series. The views are quite strong. But it has to maintain a sort ol religious zeal, because you can’t talk about religion and not understand it. Faith is very important and this is about laith. Dealing with it in such a direct way is what linally drew me to the subject.‘ (T. Lappin)

The Big Battalions starts on Channel 4 on Thursday 19 November at 9pm.

[233130130- Bitc music

These days Pavarotti’s practically public property. Even so, classical music is still subject to an unnecessary amount of cossetting from the cognoscenti with the kid gloves, anxious to preserve its gossamer sensibilities from the realm of lowly public consumption. Soundbites, a new six-part series from BBC Scotland, is as much for their enlightenment as for that of the professed dilettante. Evelyn Glennie, the renowned percussionist, in the company of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, hosts each hall-hour cocktail of musical styles, interviewing and playing with a variety of rising international musicians such as Swedish trombonist Christian Lindberg, planistJoanna MacGregor and the Brodsky Quartet, each chosen for their breadth of vision as much as their virtuosity. More than dissipating snob value, scope is the aim, whether it be in highlighting musical innovations, or simply in showcasing as wide a sweep of genres and instruments as possible.

‘I know that there’s a big thing going on at the moment in that we’re all trying to encourage people to listen to classical music,’ concedes Evelyn. ‘To be honest,me my point of view, l’m nota classical musician. Likewise, I’m not a jazz musician or a Latin musician

’I 2' i

\’ 1“ > . “(s "‘- v all .

1. 0. Evelyn Glennie

5 -or maybe I’m them all. The point with

, percussion is that most of the solo

i repertoire has been written since the ! 1950s and so to call me a classical i musician is totally wrong. Ijust

basically want to be classified as a musician and I think that’s the point

I that all the musicians on the

! saying, “Look, this is who we are".

programme really want to put across, to promote themselves as themselves,

They’re such diverse people.

‘If it helps to encourage people to become curious about classical music then that's wonderlul, but the message of this series is to say “keep your eyes and ears open to all sorts of music and just experiment”.’ (Fiona Shepherd)

Soundbites is on 8802 from Saturday 14 November at 8.35pm.


There are some places where the word ‘recession’ is painfully inadequate. Cutting Edge: Loansharks (Channel 4) trawled the peripheral schemes of Glasgow, where the pubs are called Chancers, everyone talks about ‘the law ofthe jungle‘ and villains are ’characters’. It’s the kind of territory where the right sort of character can lend a man £50 to pay his electricity bill and expect to be paid £1000 in regular instalments as repayment, with the threat of the client being ‘Mars-barred’ (knifed) if the cash isn’t there every Thursday.

Rob Rohrer’s film was a vivid sketch of the sharks and their prey that didn’t stop short of making the connections between the loans racket and the social conditions that helped it thrive, and wasn’t afraid to show us heroes and villains in black and white.

John Will was an undoubted hero. An abstracted but articulate victim of the loansharks, he was willing to testify, to join in a raid on one of the pubs where the characters operate and point out his man. “They’ll do me damage,’ he accepted stoically, ‘I don’t think they’ll kill me, they’re not that mad, but they’ll do me damage, they have to.’

Small-time shark Willie Henderson confirmed as much. Facing into the camera matter-of-factly, looking like a satanic Stephen Hendry, he defended his trade like any businessman at the sharp end. ‘It’s a service people appreciate,’ he said of a racket that Trading Standards officers estimate takes around £100,000 a year from the poorest communities in Glasgow, literally out of the mouths of young children. And if the victims don’t pay? ‘Nobody likes violence,’ said Henderson, with real regret, ‘but you’ve got to give them more than they can give you,’ offering as an example the occasion when he had to slash a ’customer’ across the face with a knife when he proved a tad recalcitrant.

‘They’re very fuckin’ hard,’ said another victim, Tommy, a great lumbering grin of a man who made Rab C. Nesbitt look distinctly understated. ‘They’ll shoot you, they’ll knee-cap you, the wee arseholes. The only way to deal with them is to shoot the bastards.’ It turned out Tommy had done just that. ’The guy was trying to be wide


so I met him in the car park and shot him in the arm. He was hopping around cursing, with blood all over the place, and I fuckin’ shit maselfat the noise the gun made.’ Tommy cackled at the memory. Tommy was plainly a man who played by a different set of rules.

John Will testified against the big-time loan shark Paul McCabe, and subsequently left Glasgow to avoid the inevitable ‘damage’. McCabe was fined £400 for consumer credit offences and ordered to pay in instalments of£5 a week. Interest-free.

Loansharks confirmed there’s nothing particularly funny about desperation. Marks and Gran’s latest sitcom Get Back (BBCl) tries to prove the opposite, and on the evidence of the first two episodes it‘s an uphill struggle. Martin (Ray Winstone) has lost his business and is living in his dad’s council flat. Bankruptcy has rendered him impotent (are you laughing yet?), so we get plenty ofthose innuendoes sitcom writers resort to when their

‘Nobody likes violence,’ said Henderson, with real regret, ‘but you’ve got to give them more than they can give you,’ offering as an example the occasion when he had to slash a ‘customer’ across the face with a knife when he proved a tad recalcitrant.

other ideas fall flat. ‘I don’t know what’s got into the wife,’ says Martin. ‘It’s what hasn’t got into her that’s the problem,’ replies Dad. Ho, ho.

Can Craig Ferguson really cut it as

a TV comic? On the evidence of 2000 .

Not Out there would seem to be grave doubts. The format of the show— Ferguson as a kind of sinister host talking Spurious nonsense about history before segueing into assorted sketches doesn’t really disguise the fact that 2000 Not Funny is essentially Naked Video offcuts reconstituted into an unappetising collection of feeble sight gags. Mind you, I rather liked the one featuring a showman promising us ‘a journey to the land time forgot’ before panning over to a bus with a Dundee destination board. (Tom Lappin)

“The List 6— 19 November 1992