Bite-size dramas. Review by Veronica Lee
Mandy started life in the Comedy Shorts season last year, and has now been given a six-part series. Diane Morgan, who has a solid CV in other writers’ work including Philomena Cunk, Motherland and After Life, here writes, directs and stars as the title character, who has a messy beehive, always wears thigh-high boots, has a fag on the go and a face set to permanent grimace.
She’s a walking disaster, finding that her aim in life – to own doberman pinchers – has many hurdles, and we follow them knowing that Mandy will never prosper. But Morgan, while keeping her creation just this side of sympathetic, shows us that Mandy is always – even if unwittingly – the architect of her own disasters.
The six 15-minute episodes are being shown in double bills. In the first episode, Jobseeker, Mandy went for a succession of jobs punctuated with interviews with her Jobcentre adviser (Tom Basden, from Plebs and After Life). Morgan has real comedy clout and Basden is one of a slew of established names who appear in the series.
First she went to work in a banana-packing factory, where her job was, she told her best friend Lola (Michelle Greenidge, also from After Life), an “arachnid control operative” (squashing poisonous spiders with a hammer), and then a fried chicken shop (with The Room Next Door‘s Michael Spicer as her boss). In the space of a day at each of the two jobs, Mandy managed to kill 17 people and burn down a business, and so it was back to the Jobcentre.
The pace, even for a quarter of an hour, was slow, and the humour often cartoonish. But, crikey, when the laugh-out-loud punchline came – in the last frame – it really landed.
The follow-up episode, Susan Bloody Blower, was a perkier affair, with more obvious jokes, and Mandy and Lola’s chat is priceless. “She’s doing that thing people do nowadays, lamplighting me,” said Mandy. “You mean tealighting,” responds Lola.
In a wonderfully efficient piece of storytelling, we learnt that Susan (Maxine Peake in great form) and Mandy had been friends a long time ago, when Susan had cheated her out of winning a truck on a television game show. Susan had since gone to “start a new life” in the Lake District: “I heard you got a hot tub.”
Now she was down on her luck and inveigled her way into Mandy’s life and into her flat, stealing her Dairylea Dunkers. History repeated itself as they were locked in a new battle over who would win a linedancing endurance competition and, just when we thought Mandy had finally bested her former friend, then came another beautifully timed payoff.