Drama| The Slap (2011)

The Slap is an eight-part drama series based on the novel of the same name by Christos Tsiolkas. BBC have recently acquired the Australian adaptation and I’ve been enjoying it despite the fact that I didn’t get on too well with the book. The episodes follow the repercussions of a single event at a summer family BBQ where an adult slaps a child that is not his own. The parents of the child are so affronted they call the police and press charges against him.

You may be forgiven for wondering how the events of a single slap can be prolonged for eight hours worth of TV (and 500 pages of a book): the storyline is cleverly crafted to expose the slap as a climax to the underlying tensions between families and friends. That one slap tests the relationships of marriage, family and friends of every person that attends the BBQ. For each episode, the story develops from the perspective of a different character who is buckling under the strain of the relationships he or she holds with family and friends.

The first episode opens in the perspective of Hector on his 40th birthday BBQ and, although nothing much happens leading up to the scene of the slap, the episode sets the scene for the tensions bubbling under the surface between his circle of family and friends: his marriage with his wife Aisha is strained as she seems to be the one wearing the trousers in the relationship; Aisha’s relationship with his Greek family is also strained as she finds them too intruding; Hector is lusting over their teenage babysitter Connie and plans to consummate his desires; his cousin Harry begins a loud and heated debate with Aisha’s obnoxious friend Gary; her other friend Anouk, girlfriend to a man more than ten years her junior, is distressed at witnessing the flirtation between Hector and Connie, and to top it all off Gary and Rosie’s four year old brat of a child Hugo is causing violent havoc amongst the other children. So it’s no surprise really that Harry gives Hugo the slap of his life when his father Gary refuses to restrain the wayward child. Except it’s not really a slap, but a full on whack round the face. As predicted, the BBQ ends in complete uproar and chaos with Rosie threatening to call the police before leaving. Personally I think Hugo’s parents were the ones who needed a good slap, but as the episodes progress you wish you could slap almost each and every one of the characters.

The subsequent episodes recount the follow up to the court case and and each person’s view of the events and how it affects them. Those most affected – other than Rosie and Gary – are Hector and Aisha who’s loyalties are called into question as they are torn between their family and friends.

The interesting thing about this drama is that there are no sympathetic characters; the only character I liked or respected was Anouk, who was probably the most honest and sincere, and the character I sympathised with was Connie’s friend Richie who has a terrible time understanding his sexuality. Hector grew on me a little bit by the last episode, but I actually disliked every other character in this drama. It’s interesting because it shows that the complications of each character and human beings in general, and the extent to which one’s downfalls can affect their relationships with others.

There are two Muslim characters in the drama who don’t really play a huge part in the actual storyline and only appear in two of the episodes but nevertheless seem to leave quite an impression on the viewer. Discussing this with a friend (who’s actually read the novel), she told me she liked the fact that Tsiolkas adds Muslim characters that aren’t important to the plot and are portrayed as normal human beings that are an integral part of life in many cities, rather than only existing in Western literature as suicide bombers obsessed with white girls or similar. I couldn’t agree more, but perhaps the Muslim characters didn’t quite live up to their literary portrayal – I found Bilal and Shamira quite unconvincing. Bilal just seems like the usual miserable, discontented, scary-looking bearded Muslim, whilst his wife seems to talk openly about her love for her faith and yet doesn’t seem a tad distressed about choosing to remove her head scarf for the court case.

Despite not liking many of the characters in this drama and finding a few things unconvincing, it was quite engrossing watching the development of the story and the seeing the complexities of each character and how issues of race, class and sexuality affect them. It’s definitely one of the dramas where you love to hate the characters, and really just want to give them all their own slap!

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