“It transcends all expectations of TV drama to do something brave, raw and devastating”
One of the words that best describes The Virtues – besides searing and moving – is truthful.
Truth pervades all aspects of Channel 4’s drama, spearheaded by Stephen Graham’s outstanding performance as lead character Joseph.
Graham’s ability to make his craft look like lived experience was amplified by Shane Meadows’ sensitive and stripped-back direction and the perfectly pitched script he created with Jack Thorne.
The drama originates from Meadows’ experiences of sexual abuse as a child, which he had repressed into adulthood. With the help of clinical psychology, he was able to confront his traumatic past and understand his life-long battle with depression and alcohol and turn it into an extraordinary drama series.
Tackling subjects such as child abuse and alcoholism required expert research and insight. This was provided through on-set clinical child psychologists, who consulted from casting all the way through production.
Filming and scripting decisions included using multiple cameras per shot and reducing crew sizes, so the actors had more space to create organic and spontaneous scenes.
The Virtues was C4’s highest-rating drama since Kiri in January 2018, averaging 1.7 million viewers across its four-part run.
Among the praise it received from the judges, one note stood out: “It transcends all expectations of TV drama to do something brave, raw and devastating.”
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