BBC Two – 10pm – Tuesday 9th January 2018
Created and written by: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith
Directed by: Graeme Harper
ONE LAST SERVING
“You can’t have crackers without cheese!”
Thirty years after once-hot comedy double act Cheese & Crackers bowed out of the limelight at the “arse end of variety,” Len (Steve Pemberton) and Tommy Thomas (Reece Shearsmith) reunite for one final gig in front of an invited crowd, at the invitation of Len’s daughter (Sian Car Share Gibson). But whereas Len is desperate to recreate their glory days (and antiquated “racialist” sketches), Thomas has moved on. Now a hot-shot business owner in digital marketing, he is deeply embarrassed by his frivolous novelty past.
“This is such a bad idea…”
Diverting completely from last week’s busy, bright and pacey ensemble stage play-on-screen (read my review of “Zanzibar” HERE), Inside No. 9 series 4 episode 2 is a quieter and more mellow affair. For the majority it is a two-hander between estranged partners, deceptively simple in set-up but biding its time before an almighty punch to the gut. The pair’s strained history – Len’s penchant for a tipple, Thomas’ diminished “sparkle” – culminated in the titular elephant in the room, an unresolved event in Bernie Clifton’s dressing room which has cast a shadow over their once strong bond.
I had read very high praise online before watching this episode (Radio Times proclaimed it the show’s “masterpiece”), yet despite feeling a relatable pang of emotion for the characters, there was little to elevate it above a strongly-written and bittersweet take on heritage entertainers. But then, some 25minutes in, THAT reveal happens and all the wind was instantly blown out of my puffed-up sails. Wow. Not to overstate its impact, but it really does elevate “… Dressing Room” into the upper echelons amongst the show’s finest achievements.
It may not have the in-your-face wit or razzmatazz of “Zanzibar,” but this week’s sombre standalone drama is testament to how concisely Shearsmith and Pemberton can construct engaging characters that we have compassion for after just half an hour in their presence. Bravo, Inside No. 9, you had us crying “Tears of Laughter”!
CR@B’s Claw Score: