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A Bouquet of Barbed Wire - Week 1 (Review)

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AS WE’VE seen before, a remake of an iconic series can be either a disaster or a brilliant coup. What then, I wonder, will be the fate of ITV’s modern reworking of Andrea Newman’s A Bouquet of Barbed Wire? Well, if last night’s opening episode is anything to go by, it’ll do very nicely, thank you.

First adapted for television in 1976, this psychological thriller caused quite a stir, not least for its depiction of a father’s unnatural (here read incestuous) love for his teenage daughter. Then, the two were played by Frank Finlay and Susan Penhaligon; hard acts to follow but now masterfully replicated by Trevor Eve (Waking the Dead, Framed) and Imogen Poots (Miss Austen Regrets, 28 Weeks Later).

The story begins in the present, with Eve’s Peter Manson rushing to the site of a road traffic accident, where we see him peering horrified into the wreckage of an overturned car. Cue: turn back time and view the events leading up to the crash; a clever ploy for it immediately whets the appetite.

What soon becomes obvious is Manson’s obsessive love for his daughter Prue and when her English teacher boyfriend, an unsavoury fellow by any standards, announces that Prue is expecting his child, all hell breaks loose. But worse is to follow, for against her parent’s wishes Prue marries her lover and the two set up home in his run-down flat.

Eve, as the father tormented by visions of his daughter with another man, is superb. By turn angry, baffled and despondent, he vents his frustration on new employee Sarah (Jemima Rooper) in a scene that takes ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ to a whole new level. And this in spite of having an attractive, if seemingly unemotional wife – played with consummate ease by Hermione Norris (Spooks, Kingdom).

A Bouquet of Barbed Wire

Poots too, pulls out all the stops so that Prue is at the same time, both likeable and detestable. That she loves her parents, her father particularly so, is never in doubt, but she’s also a mistress of manipulation, twisting him round her little finger like a snake around its victim. When it comes to husband Gavin, however, she more than pays the price and becomes victim rather than prey.

Tom Riley’s Gavin is suitably menacing and sickeningly smug (he obviously sees right through his father-in-law). But Gavin has a nasty secret up his sleeve – quite literally so – and will go to extreme lengths to hide it. No doubt the truth will eventually out. Gavin, however, isn’t the only one with something to hide – why else is Granny (played by the wonderful Sylvia Syms) tucked away in an old peoples’ home.

With one episode down and two to go, I’m already hooked. I’m also delighted that something that once held the nation spellbound – if a little shocked – has lost none of its panache and is at least as good as the original. Let’s hope it stays that way…

Read our review of the complete series

  1. This is not a patch on the original, no character building, no tension just in your face agression and no pyschological build-up. I hate this new version, absolutely awful.

    Joanne    Sep 13    #
  2. Absolutely nothing in common with the 70s series, apart from the names of two or three of the characters. The storyline is completely different.

    Susan Whalley    Sep 14    #