The latest instalment of Jimmy McGovern’s The Street was every bit as believable and understatedly dramatic as we’ve come to expect.
It featured Anna Friel front and centre as struggling single mum Dee who, in a bid to pay a hefty mortgage which put her in the catchment area of a good school for her kids, worked as a prostitute at weekends. Her alter ego was called Ruby.
However, her secret double life was about to be turned upside down with the arrival in her life of unassuming plumber, Mark. He was determined to win her heart and he did, however, unbeknownst to them both, Mark’s dad was one of Dee’s massage parlour clients…
This only became apparent when she met Mark’s mum and dad in a working men’s club. The nasty father then bombarded Dee with calls of a singularly unpleasant variety calling her a filthy whore and making her promise to finish with Mark and to never see him or his young daughter Megan again.
She tried to break it off with Mark after his dad’s threat to go to the governing body at St. Peters – the school she desperately wanted for her kids, one of whom was being bullied at their present school – and tell them that she was on the game.
By the time we got that far into last night’s show, the writing and brilliant casting had brought the characters vividly to life. The thing that always strikes me most forcefully about McGovern’s writing is that as a viewer who’s from a background similar to that of the demographics of The Street, there’s always someone you can readily relate to in the piece, if not several someones.
Who would suspect that their single mum neighbour was in fact a hooker and who would suspect that the sixty year old man who plays bingo in the working men’s club used her services? But it actually does happen, and that’s what works with The Street. Everything that’s ever portrayed about the residents lives in microcosm could actually be happening in any street up and down the country.
In the end, Dee called Mark’s dad’s bluff and threatened to tell his wife that he used prostitutes and shortly afterwards, she told Mark about her ‘profession’ before daddy dearest could. Mark put two and two together and after getting himself arrested at the massage parlour where she worked, he ended up in a fight with his dad and both were nicked. Cue long suffering wife who also joined the dots on her way to bail them out.
We didn’t get to see what action she took on learning that her husband of 36 years frequented houses of ill repute but we did see the gradual healing of Dee and Mark’s relationship after she’d abandoned her Ruby persona and job.
And in case you’re wondering, Dee did get the boys into St. Peters. When Mark asked her how she’d done it, she replied, “I shagged the vicar”. Unbeknown to him, she actually had and it was her silent and imploring eye contact with him at the school panel’s interview that won her sons the coveted places.
In a drama of less worth, this ending may have seemed too sugar coated and trite, but the fact is, in real life there can be happy endings, so reflecting that in a drama isn’t necessarily a bad thing.