@eawwsw »-w


g . at A

“0...; W - ' “‘2‘ " o

A Family At War

Prime exponent of laughter on the Liffey, RODDY DOYLE is an unlikely source of pointed, powerful TV drama with a social conscience. Tom Lappin flinches at the force of Family.

drunk Dublin husband staggers around a cramped kitchen. His end- of-her-tether wife smiles him a couple of times around the back of the head with a cast-iron frying pan. before dragging him semi-conscious into the yard. As he starts to come round. cursing. she swings the pan and swipes him once more with a cartoonish thunk sound as the metal connects with his skull.

The scene is written by Roddy Doyle. so it must be another dose of that coarse family humour we adored in The Commitments or The

Snapper. with those battling Irish folks. filthy of

tongue but soft of heart. Right‘.’ Wrong. With a new four-part B BCl series. Family. no more Mr Nice (Buy Doyle is diving into deeper. darker. domestic waters. This time the jokes have an unsettling aftertaste. the violence hurts. Unfairly. if understandably, Doyle has been saddled with a reputation as an essentially comic

writer. The Barrytown trilogy (The Commitments and The Snapper already success- fully transferred to film. The Van in production) introduced us to the feuding but essentially lovable Rabittes. If those stories did have serious concerns teenage pregnancy. unemploy- ment it was the jokes which stuck in the memory. the crack. the wit and the deliciously inventive profanity that stole the show.

That changed to an extent with Doyle’s fourth novel. The Booker Prize-winning Paddy

Clarke Ha Ha Ha was a delicate evocation of a troubled childhood that was prepared to forsake some of the gags for a lingering melancholy. With Family Doyle has gone several

‘One of the good things about doing this series is that it might become a . topic of conversation on

the Monday morning, it might generate hostility. I’m curious to see what happens.’

steps further. creating a TV drama that literally pulls no punches. and is deliberately more disturbing than comedic (although that doesn‘t mean there aren‘t some very funny scenes). This time Doyle made a conscious decision to peek over the fence from the relatively cosy Rabitte back yard and see what was going on next door.

‘When I was writing the Rabitte books I was always aware that l was only writing about one typical aspect ofDublin.’ says the writer. ‘I never felt the Rabittes were the full picture. I knew that their next-door neighbours. the Spencers. might be equally typical. They represent a parallel story and that's the one I wanted to write.‘

Jimmy Corkhill lookalike (‘harlo Spencer (Sean McGinley) seems

6 The rm 6 to May I994