Ordeal by Innocence BBC1

Programme Name: Ordeal By Innocence - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Arthur Calgary (LUKE TREADAWAY), Rachel Argyll (ANNA CHANCELLOR), Leo Argyll (BILL NIGHY), Kirsten Lindstrom (MORVEN CHRISTIE) - (C) Mammoth Screen/ACL - Photographer: James Fisher/Joss Barratt

Shadowy figures – Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway), Rachel (Anna Chancellor), Leo (Bill Nighy), Kirsten Lindstrom (Morven Christie)

Lavish production for Agatha Christie’s dark mystery 

★★★½

BBC1, Easter Sunday, 1 April, 9pm

AGATHA CHRISTIE was the queen of intimate murder. Relationships that are too close for comfort and disturbing family secrets often lurk in her whodunits.

These elements always add up to killing that is up close and personal. Ordeal by Innocence is a classic of the genre.

This production was originally pulled from the Christmas schedule. An allegation of historic sexual assault against its then star Ed Westwick, which he has denied, caused the Beeb to withdraw the three-parter.

Ordeal by Innocence Mary (Eleanor Tomlinson), Supporting Artists - (C) Mammoth Screen/ACL - Photographer: James Fisher

Mary (Eleanor Tomlinson)

Christian Cook as Mickey

In stepped actor Christian Cooke to reshoot Westwick’s scenes, and here is the result. Cooke plays Mickey, one of the adopted children of dragon mother Rachel Argyll, who is murdered before the opening credits. It’s a key role and he portrays the damaged son well.

The story sweeps us along with little dialogue at first. It’s pacy, beautifully shot and gripping.

In addition to the tense relationships, Ordeal by Innocence has those other classic Christie ingredients – the big country house and homicidal motives galore.

Anna Chancellor as Rachel

Mickey and his step siblings – Mary, Tina, Jack and Hester – have had the misfortune to be raised by adoptive mum Rachel (Anna Chancellor). She is cold and manipulative.

Now grown, the children – plus housekeeper Kirsten – all seem ready to brain Rachel. Delinquent Jack (Anthony Boyle) is fingered for the crime, dying later in prison.

Eighteen months after the crime, a stranger appears at the family estate. Dr Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway) claims he gave Jack a lift in his car at the time Rachel was being killed. His assertion that Jack was innocent is not believed, though he still manages to unsettle the family.

Ordeal By Innocence - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Mickey Argyll (CHRISTIAN COOKE), Kirsten Lindstrom (MORVEN CHRISTIE) - (C) Mammoth Screen/ACL - Photographer: Joss Barratt

Mickey Argyll (Christian Cooke), Kirsten (Morven Christie)

As patriarch Leo Argyll prepares to marry his secretary – to the disapproval of Mary (Eleanor Tomlinson in fine bitchy form) – the tension builds brilliantly…

Ordeal by Innocence is a superior Christie adaption. It has a terrific cast and the characters have enough skeletons in various cupboards to keep things rattling along superbly.

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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