Floodlights centres around Andrew Woodward (Gerard Kearns, as an adult, but played by Max Fletcher in his younger years) who, as a young boy, was assaulted many times by football coach Barry Bennell (Jonas Armstrong), who made himself out to be the big ‘I am’, and the saviour of the game for as many young boys in the area as possible.
The drama starts at Bury FC, in 1997, but his team isn’t doing too well. Throwing his life out of balance, after the game, Andy’s asked by the police to talk to them about Bennell, as the man is in jail, but due out soon, and they think there’s more to tell about his criminal activities.
Just before that, though, we’re told how the revelations all came out in the press on November 16th 2016, which will have been the first time I learned of this.
Jonas Armstrong plays Bennell, and when I first saw the trailer, I thought it was Barry Grant from Brookside, so perhaps if there’s ever a retrospective of that soap, there’s one casting decision already made.
Early on, Bennell, offers Andy a spot on his team, asking “Do you think you’re good enough to be one of my boys?”, which sounds quite grim with the full knowledge of what happens subsequently. Then after one match, he even takes his clothes off in front of the boys to use the shower, so this is clearly where the grooming starts, along with a post-match sleepover offer, including videogames. It looks very much like a Jimmy Savile-type situation, given how it all plays out.
The timeframe goes back and forth between 1997 – when Andy is asked if he’ll give evidence against Bennell – and the abuse taking place.
Also bringing in Morven Christie and Steve Edge as his parents, Jean and Terry – the doting parents who only want the best for their son, Floodlights has superb performances from all concerned.
I won’t describe how things play out when Bennell and Andy are together – with no-one else present, but safe to say, it makes for grim viewing.
And like most, I expect you may only have learned of the news from the reports in 2016 onwards, so all I will say prior to broadcast is that this is essential viewing. It’s a shame it’s only on BBC2, and not promoted to BBC1. I really hope that the repeat showing is on the main channel on a weeknight. I’m sure the 10pm news can wait 20 minutes.
As an aside, I will say that the score from Blanck Mass has a distinct ’80s feel, which is superb.
Floodlights is on BBC2 on Tuesday May 17th at 9pm. It’s not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
After broadcast, it will be on the BBC iPlayer.
Director: Nick Rowland
Producer: Josh Dynevor
Writer: Matt Greenhalgh
Music: Blanck Mass
Andrew Woodward: Gerard Kearns
Barry Bennell: Jonas Armstrong
Jean Woodward: Morven Christie
Terry Woodward: Steve Edge
Young Andrew Woodward: Max Fletcher
Ash Stephenson (young): Mohammad Sakhi
Ash Stephenson: Avin Shah
Batzy: Lawton Dickens
Jobbo: Frankie Friend
Neil Warnock: Antony Byrne
DC Blakefield: Mark Holgate
DS Haleford: Neil Bell
DC Grace: Jessica Baglow
Martin Sanusi: Benjamin Oyenuga
Chris: Chris Anderson
DI Arrowcroft: Lauren O’Rourke
DS Denmyre: Matthew Hawksley
DI Bakewell: Krissi Bohn
Danny Taylor: Sean Croke
Physio: David Loy
Radio journalist: Akib Ahmed
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.