Review of Truelove – a captivating play about plotting the demise of your closest friends.
I am always in awe of Lindsay Duncan’s talent. Every time I see her in a project, I am reminded of how magnificent she truly is. In the new six-part drama Truelove, she shines even brighter surrounded by a talented cast of actors.
After four decades, Truelove has become quite cold. A gathering of long-time companions occurs at a funeral, leading to a drunken agreement to assist one another in passing away should the challenges of aging or sickness become unbearable. Tom (played by Karl Johnson) notes that they possess the abilities required to carry out this task – whether it is considered murder or an act of love is the main dilemma of the show.
Duncan portrays Phil, an ex-senior cop with extensive knowledge of criminal tactics and how to hinder an investigation. Ken (played by Clarke Peters) is a former soldier, while David (Peter Egan) is a retired doctor who can still make prescriptions. Marion (Sue Johnston), Tom’s sister, also indulges in drinking.
After eight months, Tom is faced with death due to cancer in his lymph glands, liver, and pancreas. The doctor referred to it as “The full English.” He has about a month left to live. Will Phil and Ken fulfill their pact?
Can you? Tom tries to commit suicide, but his friends are unable to. He ends up in the hospital and tells them, “I’m on suicide watch and Do Not Resuscitate.” The script is filled with many beautiful lines like this.
In the end, Tom successfully manipulates them into a difficult situation and they finally respond to his request. This leads to a series of complicated events, as the determined investigator (Kiran Sonia Sawar) puts all her effort into uncovering discrepancies, ironically driven by her desire to impress Phil, the ex-chief constable.
I am uncertain of the main idea, that a group of friends – no matter how close, wise, or practical – could uphold such a promise to one another. Perhaps learning more about their hidden friendship over the years would have lessened my disbelief. However, ultimately, it is not of great importance. The heart and enjoyment of the story lies in the gradual and believable unfolding of the consequences of their actions. It is in the skillfully crafted moments of love in all its forms, from the unwavering bond between long-time spouses David and Marion as her dementia progresses, to the weakening ties between Phil and her husband Nigel (Phil Davis), as he embraces a simpler life that she cannot, to the lingering spark between Ken and Phil that is fueled by their partnership in questionable activities. Or perhaps not questionable. That is for you to decide.
The actors’ performances are also noteworthy. Every main actor has at least 50 years of experience, in addition to their natural talent, and this is evident in their work. Duncan expertly portrays a former detective who now uses her unsentimental perspective to protect her friends. Peters convincingly conveys the inner turmoil of his character’s conscience, while Davis effectively portrays his character’s misery as he suspects his wife and friend of having an affair that contradicts his entire married life. Meanwhile, Egan and Johnston’s characters continue to grow in their love for each other despite facing numerous challenges.
This is the debut drama series from Iain Weatherby, and it is a fantastic start. The show is full of amazing dialogue, skillfully written, and as we progress through the episodes, it becomes deeply emotional. It has a sense of longing without being depressing, and it’s a unique blend of a murder mystery and police procedural that avoids cliches and thriller tropes. It unapologetically centers around characters in their seventies, rather than just mentioning or making fun of them. During a marriage counseling session, Phil reminisces about how Nigel used to leave her a pack of 10 Silk Cut cigarettes after a long day. “It was the 90s,” she explains to their therapist. “Don’t judge, Erica.” It’s humorous, but not meant to be funny. It’s a reflection of life experience silencing silliness.
What an excellent way to kick off the new year!