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Boys from the Blackstuff

"Thatcher's Britain was a cruel place for many people"

"Television drama doesn't come any more powerful or honest than this"

Boys from the Blackstuff

All five of Alan Bleasdale's acclaimed series of plays.
Alan Bleasdale's Boys from the Blackstuff gripped television audiences in 1982 with its bleak, fiercely funny exploration of the effect of the UK's economic depression on a group of Merseyside characters, originally introduced in his 1978 play, The Blackstuff. Bleasdale's writing is unsparing in both its pain and its unconditional affection for characters being pushed to the very limit of civilisation. Yosser Hughes (the outstanding Bernard Hill) is still, and rightly, recognised as one of the great creations of modern television drama: a man on the brink of madness, unlikeable, ostracised, digging a deeper hole with every desperate act, but ultimately a human being deserving our sympathy.
The performances are wonderful throughout: particularly Peter Kerrigan as Malone, the once giant union leader reduced to a shadow but still with the spark that commands love and respect; Michael Angelis as Chrissie and, in a typically sharp cameo, Julie Walters as his wife. "My dreams still give me hope and faith in my class. I can't believe there's no hope," says Chrissie towards the end. And it's testament to Bleasdale's skill and the resilience of his characters that somehow, that flicker of hope remains unextinguished.

On the DVD: Boys from the Blackstuff is presented in standard 4:3 TV format with a mono soundtrack that often suffers from a muffled quality. There's only one additional feature, but it's a treasure: The Blackstuff, Alan Bleasdale's original 90-minute play, is presented as a prelude to the series with the bonus of an insightful commentary from the author and the director, Jim Goddard.

Reviewers

"The unspoken question that hangs in the air after watching Bleasdale's poetic dissection of ruined lives is, have things really changed that much"?

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