Liam Ferguson reviews the hit television series It’s a Sin
Queer as Folk’s creator Russell T. Davies has come out with a new miniseries that has garnered an intense amount of critical praise, and rightfully so. It’s a Sin follows a group of friends, most of whom are young gay men, as they navigate the scene of 1980’s London while the looming AIDs crisis uproots and changes their lives. Bolstered by a plucky sense of humour, poppy visual and musical presentation, as well as unmatched performances from the lead and supporting cast, the series gut-wrenchingly captures an extremely grim portion of recent history that showcases the negligence of public health officials.
The series largely focuses on the perspective of three young men who have left rural homes to pursue their dreams in London, all sharing a flat. There’s the central protagonist Ritchie (Olly Alexander,) the flamboyant Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and the reserved yet polite Colin (Callum Scott Howells.) Their performances are incredibly compelling and nuanced. The series is quick to switch from happy-go-lucky to devastating, and these young actors are effectively able to present and move through these tonal shifts as their respective characters react to the events unfolding. Alexander’s character Ritchie manages to convey his initial denial and underlying fear as the panic around AIDs starts to take hold of the narrative. Douglas effortlessly portrays the brash, proudly out Roscoe, while Howells performance makes it clear that Colin is a character to be protected and loved at all costs. These three are only propelled forward by an astonishing supporting cast. Big-names such as Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris show up to steal scenes every now and again, but it is Lydia West’s performance as Jill Baxter, the mutual friend of these men, that resonates with the viewer. Without spoiling anything, the direction her character takes as the world around her ignores the crisis largely killing gay men by the dozens is impressive and West clearly has a deep understanding of the script she was given.
The show is directed beautifully. Visually, the series captures a neon 80’s setting, with its many nightclub and party sets, while its upbeat music serves to deliver a carefree attitude that lulls the viewer into a sense of security before the next big, tear-jerking moment. The show relies heavily on its sense of humour half to make the characters as believable and likeable as possible and it truly works. On the other hand, sequences of genuine drama are shot to reflect life as closely as possible, and the series does not pull any punches when displaying the health officials in the U.K who wilfully ignored a disease that cost the lives of thousands of people. The tonal dichotomy presented by director Peter Hoar assists the show in achieving its state of excellence.
Finally, the subject matter at the forefront of It’s a Sin is of extreme importance and the fact that it is handled with such care lays out just how much passion emanates from the creators of the series into the final body of work. It is not often that a show comes to network television (with this being a Channel 4 series) and deals so overtly with raunchy sex scenes while also highlighting an important conversion around how the AIDs epidemic was handled. The show wears its heart on its sleeve and is truly unapologetic in its critique of the NHS and destigmatising of a horrible disease. Thankfully, the show’s impact is already being felt as The Terrence Higgins Trust reported record high HIV testing after it had aired.
I have intentionally stayed as spoiler-free as possible in this review because I cannot stress enough how much this show needs to be given proper attention. Hilarious, heartfelt and ultimately heart-breaking, It’s a Sin is an important and unmissable piece of television that is as close to perfection as one could hope.