Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Prosperity, dir. Lenny Abrahamson, written by Mark O'Halloran (RTE Television, 2007)

The past two weeks have seen the first two episodes of RTE's new drama Prosperity, directed and written by the highly talented Abrahamson and O'Halloran and being aired on Monday nights at 21.30 BST on RTE Network 2. They have also been made available by RTE online, along with lots of other info on the series as well as the scripts. Those without access to Network 2 are strongly urged to watch it online. The quality of this drama is uncharacteristic of RTE and it surely represents a high-water mark for the season, and for future Irish-made drama. The series explores they way that the new-found prosperity experienced in Ireland has not brought everyone with it. Many of the scenes serve to reinforce this: the boys walk across their crumbling estate with the skyline crowded with cranes, testifying to the building boom that has not reached their own high-rise flats. Stacey hangs around a shopping centre full of people buying things she cannot afford.

Each episode is someone's story: the first, Stacey's Story; the second, Gavin's. Stories are the heart of this drama, not plots. Stacey is beautifully rendered as a young mother passing each day with her baby wandering the streets and hanging around the Jervis St shopping centre, dealing with problems that might not even occur to some: finding a place to change the baby; finding a way to charge her mobile telephone after losing her charger; trying to be alone with her on-off boyfriend and father of the child.

Gavin is a young boy who wants a new toy and cannot afford it. He and his friend Conor play truant from school and spend the day trying to find a few euro to make up what he has saved and buy the toy. The boys meet a young mother and try to sell her the beer they have stolen. Instead they barter a can for three cigarettes and sit looking at the rabbit that Gavin has stolen from a neighbour's back yard. The story follows the boys as they make their way through the day, a day that culminates with a confrontation with the friend of one of Gavin's neighbours and an absolutely stunning and shocking final scene.

The stories run in parallel, and in each episode you will see a reprise from an earlier episode, so they weave in and out of each other, a bit like the dynamic of Krzysztof Kieślowski's Trois Couleurs. There are some stunning shots, like the beautiful portrait of Gavin looking at his father with a strong sunlight behind his face. Anyone familiar with Abrahamson and O'Halloran's Adam and Paul will recognize many echoes in this episode and there's much more to say about the way that O'Halloran has chosen to explore the themes of innocence and child-like language in both of these works.

Something very very special is happening in Prosperity.

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