13 Steps Down on ITV1 starring Luke Treadaway PREVIEW

Luke Treadaway, Anna Calder-Marshall, Gemma Jones, Geraldine James
Luke Treadaway, Anna Calder-Marshall, Gemma Jones, Geraldine James. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★ 

ITV1: Monday, 13 August, 9pm

Story: Mix is a trainer-wearing, fitness-machine repairman who has sex with bored rich women and fantasises about the serial killer John Reginald Christie. He is also stalking a catwalk model, Nerissa Nash. His obsessive fantasy world eventually opens up his potential for real-life murder.

Great to see Ruth Rendell’s work back on prime time. The author behind the Wexford stories has a far more interesting and unsettling line in psychological whydunits, and 13 Steps Down is one of these.

It is a macabre journey in the company of Mix Cellini, young repairman and bit of a charmer, who at the same time is a loathsome creep. We first meet him visiting the site of what was once Rillington Place, the scene of the horrific murders of Mix’s hero, John Reginald Christie.

Elarica Gallacher as Nerissa Nash in 13 Steps Down
Stalker’s victim Nerissa

Mix Cellini is a stalker obsessed with serial killers
When Mix (Luke Treadaway) is not servicing fitness machines, he is servicing one or two bored rich women who own them. He rents a flat from Gwendolen Chawcer – a rather ‘irrational old bag’, as Geraldine James, who plays her, explains – and Mix’s place is packed with novels about serial killers.

His other obsession is a supermodel called Nerissa Nash (Elarica Gallacher), whom he stalks obsessively. His life spins into violence when a young woman he is sleeping with, Danila, criticises Nerissa while at Mix’s flat.

It’s a strange and compelling tale, with Mix’s neurosis mirroring the bitterness and delusions of his landlady, Gwen, who is sad and repellent at the same time. Add in Mix’s feeling that Christie is watching over him and you have an unsettling drama.

Luke Treadaway is compelling as Mix
Luke Treadaway, who we’ve seen in Attack the Block and Clash of the Titans, convincingly portrays Mix’s unnerving descent from reality, reaching a crisis in the second and final episode, in which he finally breaks the bubble of his fantasy world and approaches Nerissa. You feel a tinge of sadness for someone so out on their own.

Gemma Jones and Anna Calder-Marshall are wonderful as Gwen’s long-suffering friends, Olive and Queenie, who gradually become suspicious of her lodger.

Luke Treadaway and Victoria Bewick
Mix and Danila

Rendell is expert at pulling back the net curtains and revealing the madness and delusions of everyday life. Though the story feels a little shoehorned into just two episodes (it would have been interesting to know more of Mix’s background), this is still an engrossing thriller with a terrific gothic twist at the end.

Cast: Luke Treadaway Mix Cellini, Geraldine James Gwendolen, Elarica Gallacher Nerissa Nash, Gemma Jones Olive, Anna Calder-Marshall Queenie, Victoria Bewick Danila, Sam O’Mahony Darel, Maryam D’Abo Madame Odette, Laura Pyper Kayleigh, Ben Shafik Abba, Brian Bovell Tom

South Bank Show clip with Ruth Rendell talking about her novel

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My Murder, DCI Banks, Justified 3

Danny (Malachi Kirby), Samantha (Simona Zivkovska), Shakilus (John Boyega). Pic: BBC

BBC3 is showing My Murder tonight (26 March, 9pm), a factual drama telling the true story of Shakilus Townsend, the 16-year-old boy lured to his death by 15-year-old Samantha Joseph. Shakilus was smitten with the girl, but she betrayed him to her ex-boyfriend and his gang. This hard-hitting, sad story was written by Levi David Addai and is produced by BBC Current Affairs. This story is given added power and poignancy by the real-life testimony of Shakilus’s mother, Nicola.

• DCI Banks with Stephen Tompkinson will be back, a new series of three two-stories having just been commissioned by ITV. I must admit the attraction of this series and its leading man has passed me by entirely (though the books are terrific), but followers of CrimeTimePreview have made it perfectly clear in their comments that Tompkinson is ‘tremendously sexy’ and ‘appealing’. In the first of the new stories – ‘Strange Affair’ – we gain more knowledge of Banks’s family, his parents, Arthur (Keith Barron) and Ida, and his brother, Roy, a roguish wealthy businessman, who becomes embroiled in the case.

Endeavour, the Inspector Morse prequel shown in January, was such a hit that there is no surprise in ITV announcing that it will return. There will be four two-hour episodes, filming on location in Oxford later this year. Shaun Evans will return as Endeavour, along with Roger Allam as his boss DI Fred Thursday.

• ITV1 is also making The Last Weekend, which will also star Shaun Evans. Blake Morrison’s  psychological study of male jealousy takes place over one hot Bank Holiday summer weekend. Rupert Penry-Jones, Genevieve O’Reilly and Claire Keelan also star.

• And ITV has also commissioned a drama based on Ruth Rendell’s 13 Steps Down.

Justified series 3 hits 5USA on Wednesday, 28 March, at 9pm. This is the coolest cop show on TV at present, with Timothy Olyphant superb as the lawman with the itchy trigger finger. Boyd Crowder is out for revenge as the series starts, following Ava’s shooting at the end of the last series.

• So it seems the next series of Luther could be the last, as creator/writer Neil Cross prepares a cinema version of the maverick, unorthodox detective. I’ve just reviewed Cross’s brand new novel, The Calling: A John Luther Novel, which is a prequel to the first series. The review is over on Shots, the crime ezine.

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