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I was lucky enough to attend the preview screening of This is Enlgand '86 last Thursday at the Showroom in Sheffield. The cinema was decorated to look like an 80's wedding with a buffet of sausage rolls, prawn vol au vonts, cheese and pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks, and there was also a live ska band and actors dressed in 80's clothing to help create a real 1986 atmosphere.
The preview was attended by director Shane Meadows and all of the cast, who came up on stage before the screening to introduce the first episode. The producer mentioned that Shane Meadows had been frantically working in London every day to try to get the last 2 episodes finished in time to be aired on Channel 4.
Only the first episode was shown at the screening along with a trailer for the rest of the series but I have to say that, based on what I saw, I don't think fans of the film will be at all disappointed by the series. The themes of racism, the Falklands War and Thacherite Britain take a bit more of a backseat here and the focus is now on the lives of the characters and the various personal problems they face growing up in 1986. The opening to the first episode is fantastic and the director manages to bridge the gap between the events of the film and the series in a very creative way that fans will love.
The 1986 setting looks extremely authentic and the series is complimented by a fantastic soundtrack.
The cast put in excellent performances once again, in particular Thomas Turgoose who returns as Shaun and Vicky MccLure who is again brilliant as Lol. Also look out for hilarious comedic turns from Hannah Walters (a.k.a Mrs Stephen Graham) who played the shoe saleswoman in the film, and newcomer Perry Fitzpatrick as psychotic bully Flip. I don't think I'm giving anything away here (as he is featured in all of the trailers) but we also see the return of the fantastic Stephen Graham as Combo.
Although this first episode is more light hearted in tone than the film with some more obvious comedic set pieces, the director is able to expertly switch to the more dramatic scenes and engage viewers in the various predicaments of his characters. There are several very emotional scenes which work very well and the familiar sounds of the Einaudi piano score punctuate these scenes to great effect. For me one of the things that made the dramatic scenes in the original film so engaging was Shane Meadows' use of music to heighten the emotional impact and I found that he did this very effectively again here.
The trailer for the other 3 episodes promises more hilarious scenes as well as some much darker subplots, and the series as a whole looks set to provide all of the same elements that made the original so appealing. As a fan of the film it felt a little like visiting a gang of old mates who I hadn't seen in a while, and I can't wait to see the rest of the series when it airs to find out what becomes of these great characters.
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