Friday, October 12, 2007

Overlooked DVD of the month - MADE IN BRITAIN

The 1980s were the best and worst of times. Society was in upheaval with Thatcher's forced modernisation of the economy. With rising poverty and unemployment came increased resentment of the rich and immigrants. But the painful birth of modernity was also chronicled by the last flourishes of the old quality terrestrial TV networks. It was the decade of Boys from the Blackstuff and MADE IN BRITAIN.

MADE IN BRITAIN is a 75 minute TV drama originally broadcast on ITV in 1983 as part of a series on what was happening to British schoolkids. It was written by David Leland and essentially depicts an extended debate between a young skinhead and the social worker who's trying to give him a second chance in life. Leland's master-stroke is to create a character who defies pat cliche. Trevor the skinhead is no mindless vicious thug. He's an articulate, intelligent kid whose racist, violent anarchism has a kind of demented logic to it. Trevor doesn't go to school because he's bored there. The teachers, struggling to teach immigrant kids the basics, don't have time for him. So he bunks off and resorts to petty crime to fill the time and get some money in a world where his chances of a decent job, education or no, are pretty slim. When we meet him, he's in court, showing a cocky defiance to the judge, and the entire British establishment with him. Alan Clarke's steadicam follows him as he gets processed in a kids' home, goes down the dole office, nicks a car and ends up being sent to a secure unit. At the climax of the drama, we see Trevor argue out his future with a couple of social workers who are trying to help him. Tim Roth gives a brilliantly nuanced performance in this scene. Trevor's not stupid, so he can see the logic of their arguments. He just can't quite believe they're for real, given his experience of life to date. It's powerful stuff, and shockingly you end up sympathising with Trevor even though you know that he is capable of being an utter bastard.

MADE IN BRITAIN was originally broadcast in 1983 on ITV and is now available on DVD.

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