A sunny room in a Kent country house, 1962. An adorable moppet helps a young blonde woman make the bed. They are joined by the dapper man of the house. They gather in front of the window and give a Nazi salute with a smile.
So begins Ridley Road (BBC One), the four- partial adaptation by Sarah Solemani of the novel of the same name from Jo Bloom's 2014. It's a startling opening, especially since the story that is going to unfold, we are told, is inspired by real events.
The real part is the rise of neo-fascism in 1960s England, when the dismal rags of Oswald Mosley 's Union Movement, and the version of the British National Party that would later become the National Front, were supplemented by the National Socialist Movement led by a man called Colin Jordan. Kinnear - seen doing sieg-heiling in the sun.
The drama takes its name from the road that housed the headquarters of the Coalition of Men Jews known as Group 62 who carried out direct militant actions against the NSM in particular.The most famous confrontation took place in Trafalgar Square in 1962, when Jordan - protected by the free speech law - staged an anti-Semitic rally where a riot broke out between participants and protesters.
Ridley Road takes place from the perspective of the blonde woman we see in the opening, the fictional Vivien Epstein. Epstein (Agnes O 'Casey, giving no sign that this is her first TV role) leaves her loving but claustrophobic home in Ter Sleeves, where she lives with her parents, to swing at London in search of ex-boyfriend Jack Morris (Tom Varey).
Morris, it turns out, is integrated into the NSM as as a spy for a secret group of anti-fascist Jewish activists led by Epstein's uncle, Soly (Eddie Marsan). After participating in an NSM arson attack on a yeshiva in which a student is killed, Morris goes missing,which leads Epstein to work his way into Colin Jordan's good graces to find out if Morris has been unmasked, injured or killed.
Wounded only! From there, it's just one step away for Epstein to fit in and work with Jack to avoid further attacks from the NSM (including plans to disrupt the funeral of the yeshiva boy - there is a heartbreaking photo of a Jewish man having to hide behind the headstone of the grave he is visiting when they are directed to the wrong cemetery). The group is gathering intelligence on Jordan's plans and the "paramilitary force" he drags into the country house loaned to him by a sympathetic aristocrat.
While the main thrust of the story is amateur espionage and Epstein's growing involvement in Jordan's world, it's in the quieter, more domestic moments that the drama does. is the most convincing. TheThe ghostly presence of the Epsteins' relative, Roza (Julia Krynke), a Holocaust survivor ravaged by grief and suffering, gnaws at the conscience of Vivien's mother, Liza (Samantha Spiro, who excels in nervous characters, inarticulate and well deployed here). Not realizing how endangered they were, she denied Roza's family a place to stay when they were fleeing the Nazis, and her guilt filled the house as so many others must have. .
Elsewhere, the fertile ground where the seeds of anti-Semitism and other assorted sectarianism flourish are well mentioned. We see the solace that Epstein's old London landlady, Nettie (Rita Tushingham), finds in local community leader, Gary Burns (Nigel Betts), and her explanation of why the world is changing so rapidly around us. 'she. You'll never guess who is to blame.
London coins, however, have a much wider brush feel. The romance element - with a potential rival in the form of Stevie (Gabriel Akuwudike), who currently has Vivien as a secret fascist but, one suspects, will make the scales fall from his eyes before the third credits roll. episode - feels awkward and unconvincing. The steering feels oddly stilted and the dialogue fragile, never quite first-class. The pieces staged in the hairdressing salon where Vivien finds a job are almost cartoonish, and the relentless salt of anyone born in the East End gets pretty squeaky.
Still, while you might wish it featured a little more complexity and artistic sophistication, it's drama with resonance. He has the right story to tell - alas - in our present dark age.