Common, BBC1, Nico Mirallegro, Susan Lynch, Jodhi May, Daniel Mays PREVIEW

Margaret Ward (SUSAN LYNCH), Johnjo O'Shea (NICO MIRALLEGRO), Coleen O'Shea (JODHI MAY)
In the frame – Johnjo, with Margaret and Colleen. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: Sunday, 6 July, 9pm 

Story: When seventeen-year-old Johnjo O’Shea gives his friends an impromptu lift to a pizza parlour, he doesn’t expect to find himself charged with murder. 

JIMMY MCGOVERN has written some unflinching dramas, with his series including Accused and The Street. Full of moral dilemmas and often uncomfortable to watch, they are a long way removed from your average costume drama or cop procedural.

Common is also another unsettling tale, all the more so because it explores a real contemporary legal controversy, the Joint Enterprise or Common Purpose law under which someone can be charged with a crime for being in the company of the person who commits it. This is actually the second drama dealing with the issue, following 2012’s Murder: Joint Enterprise on BBC2, which was similarly hard-hitting.

DI Hastings (ROBERT PUGH)
DI Hastings arrives for Johnjo

Teen Johnjo jumps at the chance to the drive his cousin and a couple of his big mates to get a pizza. He’s left in the car, but when the trio spill out of the pizza he soon realises that one of them, Kieran, has stabbed another lad for looking at him.

Johnjo goes to the police

From then on, Johnjo (Nico Mirallegro) is lost in a legal maze, the victim’s family is obviously

Johnjo O'Shea (NICO MIRALLEGRO), Tony Wallace (PHILIP HILL PEARSON), Colin McCabe (JACK McMULLEN), Kieran Gillespie (ANDREW ELLIS)
In the dock – Johnjo, Tony, Colin and Kieran

distraught, while Johnjo and his family are under threat from Kieran’s family.

It seems like common sense when JohnJo’s cousin tells him, ‘You can put your hand on your heart and say you knew nothing about it… we’ll back you up… you’ve got nothing to worry about.’

And when Johnjo goes to the police and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong, I’m just telling the truth,’ he doesn’t even want a lawyer.

Susan Lynch is moving as the victim’s mum

This conflict between Joint Enterprise and natural justice has clearly agitated the award-winning McGovern for some time, and that sense of exasperation and outrage makes this a compelling and provocative 90 minutes.

Every top British actor seems eager to work for the writer – the late Bob Hoskins, Christopher

Royal Court Judge (SIR MICHAEL GAMBON)
Administering justice (Sir Michael Gambon)

Ecclestone, Juliet Stevenson, Sean Bean, Peter Capadi, Jane Horrocks and many more – but, goodness, does he put them through the emotional wringer. Susan Lynch is superb as the victim’s mother, raging at her estranged husband (Daniel Mays), grieving and struggling to pay for her son’s burial. Jodhi May has never been more affecting as Johnjo’s mother, and their two characters articulate the callous injustice exacted on families.

But despite all the tears and anger and legal brutality, the drama is full of tenderness, even for the less sympathetic characters, and moments of humanity. In other words, it’s a typically passionate McGovern story.

Cast: Nico Mirallegro Johnjo O’Shea, Susan Lynch Margaret Ward, Jodhi May Coleen O’Shea, Daniel Mays Tommy Ward, Andrew Tiernan Peter O’Shea, Robert Pugh DI Hastings, Michelle Fairley Shelagh Wallace, Philip Hill Pearson Tony Wallace, Andrew Ellis Kieran Gillespie, Jack McMullen Colin McCabe, Ben Smith Patrick O’Shea, Sir Michael Gambon Royal Courts Judge

Check out these links…
Our review of Murder: Joint Enterprise
Guilty by Association is a BBC1 documentary (Monday, 7 July) about Joint Enterprise

Follow @crimetimeprev

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