What fantastic drama it is too. The whole third episode of Jimmy McGovern’s latest series builds towards a dramatic showdown between Sean Bean and Robert.
Sean Bean plays Father Michael Kerrigan, a Catholic priest whose parish is a small town in northern England. Each of the six episodes follows Kerrigan’s attempts to serve members of his flock with very disparate difficulties. Only Kerrigan has problems of his own, and in the third episode he is haunted by his past, and the sexual abuse he suffered at school at the hands of one of his teachers – Father Matthew.
In this incredibly powerful drama, Robert plays Father Matthew in the present day. When Kerrigan confronts him, the first thing Father Matthew is worried about is whether or not Kerrigan is wearing a wire, and he gets Kerrigan to swear an oath that he isn’t. It’s the survival instinct of a lifelong abuser. As the scene unfolds it becomes ever more chilling. Sean Bean gives a terrific performance as Kerrigan unravels, overwhelmed with conflicting emotions as he looks for closure by his confrontation with Father Matthew.
This is Robert as we’ve rarely seen him. He’s played villainous before many times, but even his malevolent characters usually have a touch of humanity about them. Not so Father Matthew. It’s the sheer coldness of the performance that’s chilling to watch; the indifference to the suffering he inflicted on Kerrigan as a boy, the callous dismissal of his pain, the concern only with whether or not he will be found out (and his ice-cream will melt). The moment that gave us a shiver is the casual wave that Robert gives as Father Matthew wanders back into his house leaving the distressed Kerrigan on his drive….
I heartily recommend Broken. Jimmy McGovern is one of the UK’s best writers and there are fantastic performances bringing the scripts to life. McGovern’s television dramas are usually hard-hitting but compulsive (Cracker, Hillsborough, The Lakes) and Broken is amongst his best work. It also stars Anna Friel and Adrian Dunbar. You can see it on BBC iPlayer, and see a shortened clip of Robert starring opposite Sean Bean on The Express.
The images are copyright to the BBC.
Theatre and book critic for Entertainment Focus, freelance writer and one third of the Doctor Who podcast The Complete Menagerie (Almost).