A new work from playwright / screenwriter David Hare (Plenty, Collateral, The Hours) is worth your attention, and Roadkill demands it -there’s a lot going on here.
The 4 part thriller sees Hugh Laurie starring as ambitious Conservative politician Peter Laurence who has just won a libel case against a British newspaper after a key witness, journalist Charmian (Sarah Greene) changed her evidence.
He is also adept at damage control when brushfires threaten to lick at his sides, thanks to his right hand man Duncan (Iain De Caestecker). Yet when your past is dotted with skeletons, such as the offspring of all the women you’ve slept with in your uni days, some will be hard to douse.
“In your day it was liberation, nowadays it’s exploitation,” Duncan tells him.
One young woman Rose (Shalom Brune-Franklin) claims to be just that -and she also happens to be an inmate incarcerated at a local prison.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Dawn Ellison (Helen McCrory) is none too impressed with Peter’s headline activities, while she mulls a cabinet reshuffle.
There are two other key sub-plots at work here: daughter Susan (Ophelia Lovibond) whose partying behaviour attracts the attention of tabloids, and an aggrieved newspaper who reacts badly to losing the courtcase.
Hare has fun exploring the concept of keeping your friends close and enemies closer in Roadkill. Peter has accrued quite a few, but is focussed on power and public reputation… including a weekly talkback show where he trades in noisy opinion.
“Voters think of me as a character. People would rather be led by a character than a zombie,” he insists.
Hugh Laurie, in his distractingly-dyed hair, has a wild ol’ time veering from Machiavellian moments to car-crash disasters, tumbling from great heights as forces work against him. For Peter, a controversy is practically a challenge he must rise to…
Helen McCrory, also in a power-wig, revels in her PM puppeteer role while supports including Ophelia Lovibond, Iain De Caestecker and Shalom Brune-Franklin are also crucial chess pieces.
I would have liked more variation (literally) from the main theme being so overused here, but at just 4 episodes Roadkill won’t outstay its welcome. It’s smart and dark with a formidable ensemble and biting dialogue. Expect to see this one attract its share of award nominations.
Roadkill airs 8:40pm Sundays on ABC.