Top Boy 2, C4, with Ashley Walters, Kane Robinson, Lorraine Burroughs

Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Dris (Shone Romulus) in Top Boy 2
Dushane and Dris in Top Boy 2. Pics: C4

Rating: ★★★★

Channel 4: starts Tuesday, 20 August, 9pm

Story: 27-year-old Dushane has finally made it as ‘Top Boy’, and is moving into the big time with boss Joe. But Dushane’s former right-hand man, Sully, is now a potentially dangerous rival with a new partner-in-crime, violent and volatile Mike…

Graffiti of Sully and Dushane in C4's Top Boy2
Sully and Dushane – series artwork

WELCOME BACK to the Summerhouse Estate, where the gangs are still thriving and tension is high. Dushane is where he wants to be – Top Boy – and thinks he can ride the tiger, that he is in control.

He’s joined up with big boss Joe and they are getting their largest drugs shipment ever. For most of the opening episode (there are four in all), everything seems to be going Dushane’s way.

Even when he is arrested on suspicion of killing Kamale, Dushane is soon released unscathed, with the help of attractive solicitor Rhianna, who even agrees to go for a drink with him.

Bleak Hackney accompanied by Brian Eno

Dushane’s former ally Sully is scrabbling around to brutalise his way to small amounts of

Vincent (Benedict Wong) in C4's Top Boy 2
Drug dealer Vincent terrorises Gem

cash, in cahoots with violent Mike. But even if Dushane misses his old mucker, Sully is strictly small time.

This second instalment of Top Boy picks up where the first, Bafta-nominated, series left off. It’s written by novelist and screenwriter Ronan Bennett (Hidden, Public Enemies), a resident of Hackney whose tale here has a proper feel for the borough and its rough side.

In modern TV dramas council estates are shorthand for ‘chavs’ and lawlessness, and certainly those featured in Top Boy are bleak, with a score by Brian Eno rubbing in the starkness of it all. But not all of Bennett’s characters turn to gang culture as a means of escape, and that’s what makes the drama a rewarding experience.

Escaping the Summerhouse Estate gangs?

Ra’Nell’s story is again contrasted with those of Dushane’s and the gang members, as he attempts to keep his head down while furthering his prospects as a footballer. His mother, Lisa, has turned a corner after her nervous breakdown and is now running her own hairdresser’s.

Michael, Navaeh and Nafisa in C4's Top Boy 2
Michael, Navaeh and Nafisa

But his friend Gem is in the clutches of a Chinese drug dealer, and his plight threatens to submerge Ra’Nell too. From 12-year-old budding rapper Michael to the other young members of Dushane’s crew, such as Nevaeh and R’Marni, this is the story of the youngsters in a hazardous urban setting.

Ronan Bennett has seen drug-dealing ‘tinies’ near his home and he has spoken to them, and Top Boy is a judgement-free portrayal of these kids, their attitudes, ambitions and relationships – good, bad and ugly. It’s in turn dismaying, raw, frightening and sometimes funny.

Ashley Walters, Kane Robinson and David Hayman

Ashley Walters, once of Grange Hill and So Solid Crew, has the charisma to be a believable gang leader, while David Hayman oozes menace as Joe. Kane Robinson as Sully holds his own

Gem and Ra'Nell in C4's Top Boy 2
Gem and Ra’Nell

as Dushane’s equal, while the young cast members (with Malcolm Kamulete as Ra’Nell and Giacomo Mancini as Gem) all feel authentic.

By the end of the first episode, the overarching crime storyline takes a shocking twist, ensuring that events are starting to spin out of Dushane’s control.

Apparently, a third series is in the pipeline, which is good news. C4’s drama renaissance is helping to expunge memories of its past reality horrors such as Big Brother and The Man with 10-Stone Testicles. Top Boy is a mark of the channel’s new-found thirst for originality and bold drama commissioning, following on from recent successes Utopia and Southcliffe.

Cast: Ashley Walters Dushane, Kane Robinson Sully, David Hayman Joe, Paul Anderson Mike, Sharon Duncan-Brewster Lisa, Giacomo Mancini Gem, Malcolm Kamulete Ra’Nell, Shone Romulus Dris, Lorraine Burroughs Rhianna

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The Ice Cream Girls, ITV, with Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs

The Ice Cream Girls on ITV, with Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs
Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs in The Ice Cream Girls. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½ 

ITV: starts Friday, 19 April, 9pm

Story: Two vulnerable teenage girls are accused of murdering their schoolteacher in the summer of 1995. For seventeen years, the two girls go their separate ways, Poppy having been charged with the murder, while Serena has married a doctor and started a family. Now in 2013, their paths cross again.

ITV is flush with excellent crime dramas in April. During the week of 13 April it will be showing Scott & Bailey, Broadchurch will be nearing its finale and Endeavour and The Ice Cream Girls will be launching.

The latter is a three-part drama derived from a bestseller by Dorothy Koomson. The Ice Cream Girls is how the press dubbed the two teenage girls who were the only witnesses to a murder, Serena and Poppy having briefly been friends during the summer of 1995.

Holli Dempsey as Young Poppy, Georgina Campbell as Young Serena in The Ice Cream Girls on ITV
Old mates – young Poppy and Serena

Seventeen years later, Serena is still disturbed by a love affair she had then with her teacher, Marcus Hansley, a passion that ended in murder. Serena fled the seaside town of her youth and moved to Leeds, where she married a doctor and had a daughter.

Poppy and Serena are back in town 
As the drama begins, Serena moves back home with her family to help her sister cope with her ailing mother. She is on edge, haunted by the past.

It just so happens that Poppy is finishing her sentence for murder and is about to return home too. She is also plagued by what occurred all those years before, and wants to confront Serena and the tragic events that bound them together. Everyone thinks Poppy murdered the teacher, but did she? That’s the question hanging over their lives.

It’s a riveting opening to the drama, with equally fine performances from Lorraine Burroughs as a jittery Serena and Jodhi May as the young woman with a prison pallor who gradually starts to assert herself once she gets used to being on the outside again.

Martin Compston as Marcus in The Ice Cream Girls on ITV
Teacher with secrets – Marcus

Martin Compston as the teacher with a dark side
Serena is so on edge she races away from a cop who stops her for speeding. She has never told her husband about her involvement in the trial. Meanwhile, Poppy has to deal with moving back with her mother and hostile stepfather.

Martin Compston is creepy as the victim and teacher with a dark side revealed in flashbacks. Poppy closes in on Serena, visiting her unknowing husband at his surgery, and there are twists to come in episode two before the women come face to face.

It’s a skilfully made and atmospheric thriller about believable characters trapped by a vulnerable moment in their young lives. Full of surprises, it rounds off a terrific week for ITV drama.

Cast: Jodhi May Poppy, Lorraine Burroughs Serena, Holli Dempsey Young Poppy, Georgina Campbell Young Serena, Martin Compston Marcus, Bryan Dick Al, Dona Croll Rachel, Nicholas Pinnock Evan, Dominique Jackson Vee,  Sara Powell Fez, Eleanor Methven Liz, Owen Roe Jim, Kathy Kiera Clarke Marlene, Michael Mcelhatton Brian, Patricia Martin Poppy’s Gran, Gail Brady GP Receptionist, Dylan Tighe Poppy’s Lawyer, Laura Jane Laughlin Serena’s Lawyer, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú Sgt Reynolds         

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