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The Price - TV drama on DVD

Monday, 10 June 2019 16:58

From an idea by its star Peter Barkworth, who is the centre of the action as Geoffrey Carr, The Price is a hostage drama set on both sides of the Irish Sea. The kidnap is the framework around which everything else revolves – business machinations, emotional conflicts and police procedurals - the story is rich in characterisation while exploring beliefs and motives. The mini-series is now back in the spotlight, not only for its subject matter but also for showcasing a pair of actors ‘before they were famous’, thanks to this release on DVD through Simply Media.

Set like an elaborate game of chess between the kidnappers and Carr (the husband and stepfather of the abductees), The Price is a drama which tackles the likes of political ideologies, matrimonial discord and the price paid in pursuit of happiness (hence the title). It does not run shy in its analysis of Ireland’s politics of the time, both Republican and Northern. Indeed, one wonders if the EU border arguments may be the unwitting blue touch-paper which could kick off violent hostilities once more.

Carr is at the forefront of the then-contemporary computer revolution of the 1980s, and this is what gives him the wealth which makes him a target. His new wife, Frances (Harriet Walter) wants security and a bountiful income to tap into, both for her benefit and that of her daughter Clare. Frances is not a likable character, which means not as much sympathy comes her way following the kidnap.

Clare is played by a teenage Susanna Reid (yes, the Good Morning Britain host – who adds an ‘h’ to the end of her Christian name for this screen credit).

As I wanted to watch the series without preconceptions, I didn’t do much research prior to sitting down to consume the production. In fact, I initially thought Susanna was playing the MOTHER, rather than the daughter – such is the similarity in looks between Reid and Harriet Walter. I wasn’t sure how that would work with Susanna’s actual age, until I sat down after my viewings to research the what, who and when of the drama.

First broadcast in 1985, the series increases its 21st Century interest with the casting of a young Adrian Dunbar (Hastings in Line of Duty) as Willy, one of the smaller wheels amongst the tight band of kidnappers. Although he doesn’t have much screen time, even back then he was a magnet to viewers, playing a quiet man whose performance metaphorically shouts for attention. Dunbar was also Martin Summers in the second season of Ashes to Ashes, and Detective Lomax is the 2005 live restaging of The Quatermass Experiment.

Also involved is Simon Jones (Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Bridey in Brideshead Revisited) as Lansbury, a colleague of Carr’s.

The series was written by Peter Ransley (who had dramatised three episodes of Tales of the Unexpected, as well as penning three episodes of Crown Court, an episode of Hazell, and the TV mini-series “Fingersmith” and “Seaforth”) and directed by Peter Smith (responsible for 22 episodes of Midsomer Murders, an episode of The Sweeney, an episode of Target, the mini-series “A Perfect Spy”, and he also directed three episodes of “Seaforth”).

The soundtrack was from David Earl and the RTE Concert Orchestra. The theme music just doesn’t suit the tone of the production, coming across as more upbeat and jolly than it really should be – it would have been more suitable for something of the likes of Hadleigh. It also overplays the foreboding card, telling us far too openly what’s coming up, signposting the plot in such a way that it diffuses many of the twists.

In an age where the microcomputer was exploding in popularity, Carr is taking advantage of this new landscape. And it's a technological demand that has granted him an unimaginable wealth. A life spent chasing success and fortune, however, has left Geoffrey bereft in romance circles. Determined to correct his lonely cul-de-sac, he believes he has found a life partner in the much-younger Frances.

Geoffrey wants her to be happy, so he tries to buy her childhood home in the Republic of Ireland. No alarm bells ring when Andrew (Nicholas Jones), a childhood crush, is found to still be around in the area.

Actress Harriet Walter remains very busy – recent roles have seen her in the productions Black Sails, Call the Midwife, The Crown, Flowers, The End and Curfew. You can even see her in the Elton John-themed movie “Rocketman”.

Chief villain is Frank Crossan (Derek Thompson), an IRA hitman who has little time for those on both sides of the conflict, as they don’t have much time for him. It’s his plan to carry out a kidnap to finance an arms deal. After doing his research via high society magazines, Frank decides upon Frances as the target to unlock the bounty of ransom. Actor Thompson would go on to major fame playing Charlie Fairhead in Casualty from 1986, the year after The Price. He’d previously featured in “The Long Good Friday” as Jeff, and Rock Follies of ’77 as Harry Moon.

Frank has a second-in-command in the shape of Kate (Aingeal Grehan – who played Deirdre in “Titanic Town”), who doesn’t have Frank’s soft centre in terms of the plan and their actions to achieve it. There may have been a romantic entanglement between the two, clearly not helped by Frank having trouble keeping everything in his trousers!

Carr chokes at the initial ransom demand of £3 million – he is keen to point out that his wealth has been over-estimated, not something he had initially minded but now sees the downside. There seems to be no way to prove to the kidnappers that they are mistaken, other than trying to forward on paperwork which proves such an amount is in no way made up of ‘liquid assets’ which can easily be made available.

Taking advice from his insurers rather than the Garda, Carr realises his business empire is at stake, and balances the safety of his ‘loved ones’ against keeping hold of as many of his assets as he can. He wants everything and will scheme to ensure that’s the conclusion which is reached.

Overall, if you view this as a period piece, The Price still has pace, and being rendered on film gives it a quality which helps the action to progress is a taut fashion with plenty of pace. I don’t think we’ll see its like on a broadcast channel soon, mainly due to the subject matter rather than the production quality. A shame, as in many respects it’s a perfect thing for media studies students to get their teeth into.

The Price is out now from Simply Media. The two disc set has a ‘12’ certificate, a running time of 360 minutes approx, and a RRP of £24.99 – or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 June 2019 17:02