By Will Barber Taylor
Peter Barkworth (Where Eagles Dare) and Harriet Walter (The Sense of an Ending) star in Peter Ransley’s twisting BAFTA-nominated drama, set at the height of The Troubles.
Geoffrey Carr (Barkworth), a major player in the emerging computer industry, is newly married to the impetuous Frances (Walter), a much younger woman with a wilful daughter from a previous marriage. He’ll go to any lengths to make her happy and stretches his finances to buy a crumbling Georgian estate in County Wicklow where Frances spent part of her childhood. Aside from commitments on the new house, Geoffrey’s continuing control of the company depends on an uncertain research deal with a visiting Japanese consortium.
Frank Crossan (Derek Thompson) is an Irish Republican hitman on the run from British authorities in the North, and from his own commanders. Seeking refuge with old flame Kate (Aingeal Grehan), he hatches a plan to kidnap a wealthy Brit for a hefty ransom to fund a major arms deal.
The two worlds collide when Frances and daughter Clare are brutally snatched and removed to a bleak hideaway. Geoffrey’s immediate impulse is to cave in to the kidnappers’ demands but nothing is straightforward when a personal crisis plays out against the forces of political intrigue, high finance, and the full glare of the media.
First broadcast in 1985, the series is written by Peter Ransley (Fingersmith, Fallen Angel) and directed by Peter Smith (No Surrender, A Perfect Spy), with a haunting soundtrack by David Earl and the RTE Concert Orchestra. In a rare acting role, a pre-teen Susanna Reid (Good Morning Britain) plays Clare, and the cast also includes Simon Jones (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Brideshead Revisited) and Adrian Dunbar (The Crying Game, Line of Duty).
The Price is a drama that is unique amongst representations of Ireland and the IRA. Written, produced and broadcast during a time when the IRA were still highly active and a threat to people across Ireland and Northern Ireland in a way that cannot be conceived now. This gives the drama greater punch because when watching it in 1985 the original audience would have felt that this could have happened to them – that they could undergo a similar kidnapping if they visited Ireland. It is this central tension between viewer and the actors appearing in the drama that makes it more effective than it would be if the drama were made today. The Price’s use of this means that the drama is still as impactful today as it was then. Terrorism and kidnappings of wealthy individuals still happen today and though ISIS have replaced the IRA as the loaming threat to our western democracy and everyone of us can empathise with Peter Barkworth’s, Geoffrey Carr and his struggle to pay the price for the IRA’s kidnap of his wife and step daughter.
The acting throughout the series is great from the entire cast. Peter Barkworth shines as the devoted yet neglected Geoffrey, desperate to find some place in the world that he can call his own whilst trying to keep a grip on what he feels is certain and try and ensure that the situation he finds himself in doesn’t get even more out of hand. Barkworth brings the role he conceived alive and brings to it a real passion and emotion that helps make the series even more compelling.
Harriet Walter’s tense and impassion portrayal of Frances is a delight to watch and Walter presents a full and vesical range of emotions throughout the series. Walters is an incredibly talented actor and this truly shines through in The Price – the breadth of her talent is fully on display and the whole series is much more enjoyable because of her.
The series also allows a fun an energetic Susanna Reid to give a believable and engaging performance which proves that though Reid has pursued a career in television journalism she would have been as great a star if she had continued acting. Adrian Dunbar also gives a stoic performance as the silent yet strong IRA member Willy and it is one you are unlikely to forget.
The Price is a fascinating, complex piece of work. It is not like any other drama about this turbulent period in Irish history that you are likely to see and will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. To watch it is truly to have an experience that you will recall for a long time after you have seen it. It is captivating, chilling and above all addictive.