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Casualty - The Price We Pay

Tristan Gemmill as Adam Trueman

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

ALTHOUGH Casualty may not be as fast paced as its American cousin ER, it isn’t afraid of tackling sensitive issues. Moreover, it handles them extremely well, as the current storyline concerning consultant Nick Jordan’s terminal cancer demonstrates only too well.

A brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, Jordan’s return to Holby as A&E’s lead consultant is viewed with suspicion by the department’s junior consultant, Adam Trueman, almost from the outset. But here we have two ambitious men with egos guaranteed to cause friction. And sparks certainly fly, not least of all when the two clash over the treatment of Adam’s brother Alex (Luke Hamill) who sustained a debilitating spinal injury as a child.

Although both men want only the best for Alex, it’s Jordan who sympathizes with Alex’ wish to die with dignity, quite possibly because Jordan is himself exhibiting worrying neurological symptoms – caused, as we now know, by an inoperable brain tumour. And it’s after Alex’ death and Jordan’s diagnosis that tension between the two consultants reaches boiling point.

Michael French and Tristan Gemmill are superb as the sparring duo, ensuring our sympathies lie equally with both men – with Jordan who’s clearly in denial yet at the same time taking out his frustrations on a colleague he clearly sees as a rival; with Adam who’s coming to terms with his brother’s death while being treated unfairly by his nemesis.

However, after a serious memory lapse that almost results in a patient’s death, Jordan comes clean. His confession to Adam, though short and succinct, is nonetheless emotionally charged and it comes in The Price We Pay, an episode in which Adam not only witnesses a proud man concede defeat but also learns that he may be the father of Jessica’s sick baby. And if that isn’t enough, Margaret Samson, (Ann Mitchell) dies.

Mitchell’s recurring role as a patient with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) brought on by years of heavy smoking may well touch a nerve with many viewers, highlighting as it does the dangers of smoking and the pressures and difficulties of giving up the habit. And with Simon Gray and Hugh Whitemore’s The Last Cigarette now playing in the West End, the subject has never been more topical.

Mitchell (Widows and She’s Out‘s Dolly Rawlins) cleverly imbues the tough old bird that is Samson with dignity, wisdom and vulnerability. Furthermore, Samson’s celebrity status allows for a cameo role by John Sergeant attempting to do what he does best – reporting the news. And here credit must go to Sergeant for setting himself up in a situation that we’re more accustomed to seeing on I’ll Be Alright on the Night.

It’s the Samson story arc, which also includes a daughter given up for adoption – played sensitively by Kim Thomson (The Bill‘s Naomi Woods) – and a reluctant father, that finally makes Adam take stock of his feelings for Jessica (Gillian Kearney). Let’s hope that now he’s come to a decision – and here it would do well to remember that Adam is a man who shies away from commitment – he doesn’t have second thoughts and break her heart.

And finally there’s the ongoing storyline involving the timid but surprisingly resolute Alice (Sam Grey) and reformed paramedic Curtis (Abdul Salis). Simmering for weeks, it now looks as if things are about to come to head, thanks to Tess’ slip. Time then for Alice and Curtis to watch their backs…

Although Casualty occasionally loses its way, it inevitably comes back as stong, if not stronger than ever. And even while tackling emotive and sometimes shocking issues, it still has the magic mix of ingredients that makes it entertaining. Just one gripe – where are you Charlie?