Isolation Stories – The DVDfever Review – Eddie Marsan

Isolation Stories Isolation Stories looks like the kind of drama we could be getting used to for the forseeable future, and it’s also been touted that the BBC’s Talking Heads series, originally devised by Alan Bennett, could see a return, as it’s a simple case of one person telling a story to the camera. I never saw those at the time, but now I’m fascinated by the idea, and I’d love for them to be put on iPlayer.

In the meantime, though, ITV’s offering – which runs for just 15 minutes per episodes – begins with Mel, played by Sheridan Smith (Cleaning Up).

As we first meet her, she’s in a Skype meeting with colleagues because, like most of us, we’re all working from home at the moment. Thankfully, though, only my voice is required on those because the last thing anyone needs to see is my nostrils staring back at them, accommpanied with a mane of hair that’s dangerously approaching that of Christopher Lloyd in the ’70s sitcom Taxi.

Of her colleagues, Yasmine is struggling to cope, while Kwame suggests music and picks up his guitar. As Mel concludes, “No, don’t sing“, which is how I feel when someone does the same. That aside, after the meeting, he offers to be Mel’s birthing partner, simply following a brief time of his own in the hospital, suffering from a mild bout of coronavirus.

Isolation Stories

Sheridan Smith as Mel.

Mel is living on her own, and heavily pregnant with the child of a man who’s gone back to his wife, and as the episode progresses, she has interactions with her parents via an online chat, she leaves messages via the camera to multiple people. This all helps explain the situations as she goes, and which leads to a very emotional performance from Ms Smith, especially when unexpected elements come along.

What’s fascinating is that for obvious reasons, all of these actors will be filming in their own homes.

Based on the first episode, an awful lot is packed into such a brief time, and that highlights all the more about those dramas which take an hour to get not very far at all, as happened a lot in the recent Blood Series 2 on Channel 5.

Overall, “Mel” is a great start to this four-part series, which runs over four nights and lasts just 15 minutes apiece. ITV are also re-rerunning the four-part drama Innocent straight afterwards.

Isolation Stories

Robert and Tom Glenister as Ron and Russell.

Ron and Russell is the second in the Isolation Stories series, and it’s a tough time for the two characters – played by father and son actors Robert Glenister (Villain, Doctor Who) and Tom Glenister.

Ron’s suffering with coronavirus, but is coming across as rather delirious, and doesn’t think he’s in his own home, when he’s never left it.

There’s a brief moment of levity when – given the lack of a thermometer – the only way to check his temperature is via the use of a turkey probe. However, it does also highlight the challenges of coping with an infirm relative, even when they’re not particularly elderly.

The pair have their ups and downs in such a short space of time, and this is another worthy addition to the short series, as I think most of us know what it feels like to have a relative who’s not so light on their feet.

Isolation Stories

Angela Griffin as Rochelle.

Mike and Rochelle is the third in the Isolation Stories series, with Mike (Darren Boyd) struggling with the lockdown because he has OCD and is a hypochrondriac, thus is struggling to cope with the situation. As a result, it’s a difficult start with his latest session with therapist Rochelle (Angela Griffin), as he starts rambling with ‘end of the world’-style thoughts and feelings.

There’s a slight twist as there has been in the others so far, but I wasn’t brought into it like I was with those, so it didn’t work so well overall as a brief drama. Even still, it’s amusing, at one point, when Mike moans about Idris Elba getting a COVID19 test at a time when no-one else can, because Darren Boyd worked with him in Luther

Isolation Stories

Eddie Marsan (centre) as Stephen. David Threlfall (left) as Brian.

Karen is the fourth in the Isolation Stories series, beginning with middle-aged Stephen (Eddie Marsan, Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Videogame) thinking about cutting son Ryan’s hair. However, his father-in-law, Brian (David Threlfall), has turned up, solely from behind the other side of the bi-folding doors.

Of course, you could argue that the pair of them are NOT maintaining the 2-metre distance when they’re ‘next’ to each other, but on opposite sides of a window.

Anyhoo, Stephen’s wife, Karen (Leanne Best), has left him to live with a man called Gary who he suspects of owning an Audi, leaving Brian arriving to be the negotiator.

The final episode in the series deals with the issues of not being able to see family members in the flesh at this time, and as the story plays out, souls are searched, but can common ground be found in these difficult times?

And this chimed with me when Stephen said, “I’m 45 years old and I’ve never heard of the word ‘furlough’ before“. I was the same before all this.

Isolation Stories is on ITV at 9pm each night from Monday until Thursday. The series is not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.

After broadcast, each episode will be on the ITV Hub.

Isolation Stories – Trailer – ITV

“Mel” Episode Score: 8/10
“Ron and Russell” Episode Score: 8/10
“Mike and Rochelle” Episode Score: 5/10
“Karen” Episode Score: 8/10

“Mel” cast and crew:
Director: Paul Whittington
Producer: Tom Dunbar
Writer: Gaby Chiappe
Music: Niall Byrne
Executive Producer: Jeff Pope

Mel: Sheridan Smith
Kwame: Daniel Lawrence Taylor
Yasmine: Nina Wadia
Carly: Rhianne Barreto
Peter: Philip Jackson
Alison: Sally Baxter
Stranger: Jessica Gunning
Stranger’s husband: Kieran O’Brien

“Ron and Russell” cast and crew:
Director: Louise Hooper
Producer: Menzies Kennedy
Writer: Jeff Pope
Music: Niall Byrne
Executive Producer: Jeff Pope

Ron: Robert Glenister
Russell: Tom Glenister
Adrian: Michael Jibson
Sophie: Flora Jibson

“Mike and Rochelle” cast and crew:
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Producer: Matthew Bird
Writer: William Ivory
Music: Niall Byrne
Executive Producer: Jeff Pope

Mike: Darren Boyd
Rochelle: Angela Griffin

“Karen” cast and crew:
Director: David Blair
Producer: Ken Horn
Writer: Neil McKay
Music: Niall Byrne
Executive Producer: Jeff Pope

Stephen: Eddie Marsan
Jack: Bodhi Marsan
Ryan: Blu Marsan
Brian: David Threlfall
Karen: Leanne Best