In Review

Showtrial review: a whodunnit with a mesmerising prime suspect

New BBC show makes for an impressive drama – composed, intriguing, layered

The pre-publicity for the BBC’s new drama series Showtrial “banged on” about the fact that it has the same producers as Vigil and Line of Duty, said Alison Rowat in The Herald. Will this be their hattrick?

It starts, of course, with a murder: Hannah (Abra Thompson) is a student, found dead after a ball in Bristol. Chief among the suspects is her ex-friend Talitha Campbell (Celine Buckens) – rich, arrogant and “deeply unpleasant to everyone she meets”. The drama is stuffed with strong women intended to give it “feminist cred”, but fundamentally it’s still entertainment built on foul deeds done to women. For me the jury is out.

I thought it was “great”, said Hugo Rifkind in The Times. Away from the students, much of the drama concerns technical wranglings between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service; there’s also an abuse storyline and a “grief subplot” centring on the victim’s mother. All these strands could have stood alone, but here they are “twisted together”. It’s Buckens, though, who steals the show, turning in a mesmerising performance “right on the edge of ham” as a rich kid with emerald nails “clearly destined to break”.

Showtrial has its flaws, said Barbara Ellen in The Observer. It borrows jarringly from real-life cases and it overstretches itself on the “issues” it tries to cover: class, trolling, abuses of power. Talitha herself is a familiar “poor little rich girl”, who even does sex work. Still, it makes for impressive drama – composed, intriguing, layered. And Buckens really is “brilliant

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