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This was an eight part drama series shown on BBC four recently but you can buy the dvd on Amazon for £11.99 postage free and this production is based on the book of the same name written by Christos Tsiolkas. I never got around to reading the book despite the fact it was set in Australia and I do enjoy books about places where I have been so I thought it would be interesting to see the TV production. We always record things on our Sky+ so that we can skip adverts if needs be and also we were going to be away for some of the episodes. It is for that reason that we watched this sometime after it was broadcast on TV.
The story is set in cosmopolitan Melbourne in a residential area and is based on a family of Greek family origin, the extended family and some of their close friends. On television we were shown the story in eight parts each one focusing on a different character and told through their eyes.
'The Slap' starts with a birthday party at an Australian backyard BBQ. As the part progresses the children play a game of cricket and one spoiled brat refuses to be out, swings the bat around while his father feebly attempts to tick him off. Another guest, cousin of the host takes it upon himself to get the bat off the child. The child hits him with the bat and he slaps the child.......The story then follows the events that unfold following this assault.
Initially I felt the child deserved the slap as he was a very spoiled four year old still being breast fed by Mum and he was a brat. However as the story develops I began to change my view on the different characters and their behaviour. This slap resurrected old memories, stirred up problems, caused marriages to be questioned and characters to question their own values.
This introductory episode is told from the perspective of Hector whose 40th birthday is being celebrated with the BBQ.
Hector (Jonathan LaPaglia) initially seems to have life sorted. He is a good looking with an educated, capable and attractive wife and has two children, Adam and Melissa. We soon discover that all is not quite so perfect in this family.
As this episode develops we start to feel the little cracks in the relationship between hector and his black wife Aisha. Hector's Greek mother arrives with several plates of food despite Aisha saying she didn't need any and once she arrives they have to try and put these extra plates somewhere other than on the already overloaded table. We begin to feel the tensions bubbling under the surface, his wife is obviously the strong one in their marriage but we get the feeling that his family don't quite 'approve' of her. We also see Hector lusting over the young babysitter Connie who is the niece of one of Aisha's co workers and also works at Aisha's veterinary practice sometimes.
Hector's cousin Harry is having a loud and quite heated discussion with Aisha's friend Rosie's husband, Gary who has been enjoying rather too many beers. We also meet Anouk, another of Aisha's friends who arrives with a toy boy. She alone seems to notice Hector flirting with Connie. Hugo aged four has already caused major havoc by grabbing the remote for the game from the other children and despite being the youngest he seems to have everyone falling over each other to try and let him have his way. Personally I think the parents needed a good slap and he certainly needed to be taught how to behave so I rather sympathised with harry when he was hit with the bat giving the brat a slap.
The BBQ ended up in chaos with most of the guests leaving and the food uneaten I felt really sorry for Aisha who had gone to all that trouble preparing the food while Hector planned infidelity and her friends all just left her dealing with the aftermath.
The episodes following are told through the other seven main charcters who contribute to the story.
Rosie (Melissa George) is a very doting mother and is still breast feeding Hugo who is four. She appears to never discipline him and gives Hugo all her love as she tries to pretend that Gary is not an alcoholic. She is very hyper sensitive and spends her time totally over reacting and needs a good slap herself in my view.
Aisha (Sophie Okonedo) Hector's wife is a vet and a very strong character. Hector seems to be rather the weaker partner in the marriage. She is unaware of hector's planned infidelity but the slap at the BBQ stirs up tensions between her and Hector with regard to his family and particularly Harry who she does not like at all. She is trying to hold a family together run her vet practice and also deal with the repercussions of the slap and her friendship with Rosie and Anouk which begins to show signs of strain. In this series we are told that Aisha comes from Mauritius and is mixed race which was almost believable as she is Nigerian and European Polish/Russian. I do understand that Aisha is an Indian name but I don't think we have to analyse that too much.
Anouk (Essie Davis) although she is the same age as Rosie and Aisha she is not married and does not really feel old. She has a high powered job as a writer on a soap opera in a TV station and is having a relationship with someone ten years her junior. She saw Hector flirting with the babysitter and her loyalties are to Aisha so she confronts Hector. Anouk is the character I felt was the most sympathetic with. She was not afraid to confront Hector nor was she unwilling to tell Rosie that Hugo was spoiled and needed some discipline.
Harry (Alex Dimitriades) Harry is Hector's cousin. He is not educated like Hector and comments on this often He is a very successful businessman and very wealthy. His house is sumptuous and his wife beautiful blonde and obedient. He tries to apologise for the slap and smooth things over as he sees his whole life crumbling because of that slap. Initially I felt a bit sorry for him but as we learn more about Harry my views changed and I thought he was a nasty piece of work.
Manolis (Lex Marinos) is Hector's father and his wife is the traditional Greek mother. He arrived in Australia as a young man; he has had a happy marriage and is very proud of his son but he hankeres after life in Greece as he remembers it. We learn a lot about Greek families and their strong familial obligations to each other. I had very mixed feelings about Manolis as I thought his and his wife's attitude towards Aisha was shocking and i also found a lot of their family obligations very hypocritical
Richie (Blake Davis) I was surprised to see an episode based on what I thought was a pretty insignificant character at the BBQ. Richie is Connie's (the babysitter) friend at school. She invited him to the BBQ to keep her company. He turns out to be gay and fancies Hector too. He becomes friendly with Gary ( obnoxious brat's father) as Gary helps him with his English homework. Richie babysits Hugo a lot and becomes aware that Hugo is not the angelic child his mother thinks as Hugo spits at an old man when Richie is with him.
Connie (Sophie Lowe) lives with her Aunt Tasha, and in her last year of school with exams coming up. She is flattered by Hector's attention and then feels rejected and tells Richie Hector has done something to her. Richie begins sending anonymous texts to Hector which compound his guilt. She is a bit of a madam and the story she makes up causes all sorts of repercussions. Okay she is young but that doesn't mean she has to be so horrible, I found her unlikeable too.
WHAT DID I THINK?
I thought the way the story was told was excellent. I can't believe how quickly I got hooked into the story and how quickly I began to dislike the characters. It is really unusual to want to watch something to find out what is going to happen when you really do not like any of the characters. Some we just misguided while others were downright horrible and should have been locked away for what they did.
Having lived in Australia for thirteen years, not in Melbourne but in Brisbane I was very interested in seeing that many of the prejudices are still underlying in Australian society. It is a land of immigrants and many still keep their own values and traditions and this became quite evident in this Greek family in the story. I had friends who still breast fed their children well after the age when they did not need it and thought it was acceptable so it was strange for me to see that come into the story too.
I thought the acting was good and the characters quite believable .Some critics have said they thought it was more of a soap opera than a drama but I disagree. Obviously some of the characters might seem rather extreme to us here in the UK but looking at the series as someone who lived in Australia I found them very possible. I thought Rosie was very over the top but she was a 'sensitive soul', one of those who tried to over compensate for not initially wanting a baby to doting on the child and using him as an emotional crutch for her strained relationship with her husband.
It was shot on location and because of this was authentic. The houses looked as house do in the Melbourne suburbs and the BBQ started as I remember BBQs in Australia when i was there. I can't remember one ending quite the same way thankfully.
The thing I did feel was that the author was trying to cover all bases in Australian society. He had the Greek family one marrying a mixed race girls and the other an Australian. Also at the BBQ was a Muslim family. She was Australian but wore the head covering and was obviously a strong Muslim. She was very open and honest and they seemed to be very happy and wanting to keep themselves to themselves. I really didn't see the point in having these characters as they did not add anything to the story in my view. It seemed a bit like tokenism to me. I found the characters of both Bilal and Shamira quite unconvincing and unnecessary to the story. It seemed to me that they were there just to be there as token Muslims and that is all.
"The most gripping series on television since The Killing" - The Times
"...thoroughly modern storm in a tea-cup." - The Mirror
The Slap is "arguably the best Australian drama produced this year" - The Daily Telegraph
The Slap is "very slickly made and develops real depth" - The Daily Mail
The Slap is a "well articulated yell of suburban rage, it takes some beating" - Radio Times
"A very adult exploration of contemporary, middle-class manners, brought to life by a set of accomplished performances" - Time Out
The Slap is what's "HOT ON TV" The Daily Star
SO IN SHORT:
If you haven't seen this then I would certainly recommend the series if you are interested in Australian drama and you enjoy watching series where characters are interesting and challenge your own views and ideas. I found myself almost shouting with annoyance at some things said and certainly wanted to hand a few slaps of my own out to others.
It isn't perfect but it certainly had my husband and I hooked and wanting to know what was going to happen. There was nobody there I would choose to become friends with but they were certainly interesting and made for a great story.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my name.