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TV review: The Woman in the Wall, The Price of Truth, and Henpocalypse

01 September 2023

BBC/Motive Pictures/Chris Barr

Ruth Wilson plays Lorna Brady in The Woman in the Wall (BBC1, Sundays)

Ruth Wilson plays Lorna Brady in The Woman in the Wall (BBC1, Sundays)

THE first episode of The Woman in the Wall (BBC1, Sundays) ends with the somewhat literal acting out of the title: a murdered woman’s body is, indeed, bundled into a wall and sealed up. It is not, we reasonably conjecture, likely to remain undiscovered for too long. But the main theme is a different murder, that of an elderly priest, whom the detective sent down from Dublin to solve the case reveres as one of the few people to have championed him as a child. But a far larger group of ageing women hate his memory: he was responsible for tearing them from their families and incarcerating them in Magdalene Laundries, condemned to hard labour to atone for their sins and failings — above all, that of falling pregnant out of wedlock. Their babies were sundered from them at birth and never seen again.

Ruth Wison is mesmerising as Lorna, still utterly traumatised, decades later, by the experience. We will discover how that leads her to hide the woman’s body. Given her bizarre awkwardness, sleepwalking, and habit of carrying a woodsman’s axe during nocturnal perambulations, she will surely be the prime suspect. The Irish Church’s and State’s utterly shameful policy of hiding women away and stealing their babies, sadism masquerading as Christian charity, thoroughly deserves to be held up to the light not just in documentaries, but in serious drama. Alas, this is a dog’s dinner of conflicting genres: part social-justice expostulation, part cliché-ridden cop mystery, part slasher horror — all undercutting one another.

The Price Of Truth (Channel 4, Monday of last week) was absolutely single- minded: an account of the Nobel Prizewinning journalist Dmitry Muratov’s determination to publish the truth and oppose Putin’s war in Ukraine in his Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s only independent newspaper, which has now finally been forced to close. Six of its journalists have been murdered, he has been attacked with acetone, and state-sponsored thugs have responded with threats of violence to the least criticism of government policy. The programme was a sobering and searing account of extraordinary courage, and a moving depiction of the best of human values in the face of the worst that people can do to others. The documentary underlined its realism by having to fall back: filming became too dangerous for its subjects, crew, and their families. This is our world, where printing the wrong newspaper article or making the wrong TV film triggers lethal danger.

For disgraceful escapism, BBC2 offers Henpocalypse (Tuesdays, from 15 August). As the hen party from hell (a Birmingham council estate, actually) rampage to a remote cottage in Wales, a crab-borne pandemic kills off all the world’s men. Only one survives: their hired stripper, now chained to a bedroom radiator. This most outrageous, obscene (many jokes fortunately incomprehensible to mere men), and gross farce is, perhaps, Women Completely Off The Wall.

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