18 December 2015 | bob the moo
The moments where real people come through are unfortunately lost in a constantly sea of energy that didn't work for me
My exposure to the work of Russell T Davies has been quite limited, as I never watched a lot of his stuff from years past. I watched Cucumber out of interest, as it did seem like a large 'event', although I did not watch the supporting shows of Banana or Tofu (I think the former followed minor characters and the latter was more of a discussion show around the issues). Set within the Manchester gay community, we follow older Henry as a series of moments see him and his long-term partner breaking up, and him living with a small group of much, much younger (and adventurous) gay men.
From the start the show has a lot of energy, with plenty of colorful characters, excessive language, dialogue, and of course full-frontal male nudity. To some this will be enough to put them off whereas if the show had straight characters and female nudity, they would not be. I was unsure how I felt about this element of the show for some time – was it the fact that I saw this as 'alternative' the issue that meant the sexual material seemed like an issue? For me personally it was not, but for sure the show's obsession with sex was a barrier in and of itself. Perhaps it is my distance from this community that meant it felt over-the-top and a little tiresome in its constant sexual energy, however it remains that it did feel this way.
It is a shame because there are some real people in here, and the show is really driven by Franklin's performance as Henry. Too often he is thrown around in the sea of sex, with its fast edits, its boundless energy, and polished presentation. However at times the script gives him space to be a person within this world, and in those moments his performances works really well. It is a shame that the same was not said for the others and too many just felt like easy caricatures without any fleshing out. Even those characters which have more to work with, they still don't really manage to fight their way through the energy and bustle to make a mark.
It is a shame, because I did also quite enjoy elements of the energy, sex, and sense of lifestyle. However it does feel like these elements were always first and foremost on the agenda, and it always seems like the characters and moments of genuine feeling just came about for the purpose of having a frame for all of the main material, not the other way round.