Sunday, 28 February 2016

TORCHWOOD - MORE THAN THIS

Let me start by saying that More Than This is a journey. A short journey that only takes place over a couple of hours but a journey of self discovery, a journey of despair and a journey of hope. It doesn’t start with a journey, though – it starts with a phone call…
What is extraordinary about this story is the scale. It is very very small scale – yes it has aliens, time leakage and a hole in the universe – but all these are peripheral – the central point of the story is in the title and through Roger Pugh’s journey we get to experience his darkest moment and his realisation that there may be “More Than This” to life. Or maybe this is all there really is and we need to make the best of it.
So we start with a phone call… Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is calling up Cardiff City Council to chase up planning permission for a new Torchwood hub – what follows over the next couple of minutes are missed answerphone calls back and forth between Gwen and Roger Pugh (Richard Nichols), the planning application officer who informs Gwen that the application will take at least four months. Gwen decides to take matters into her own hands and goes to see Mr Pugh to convince him how important it is to grant Torchwood planning permission, so she decides to take him on a mission…
Pugh could be just your usual officious jumped up little jobsworth but he is so much more – in 57 short minutes he goes through literal and emotional hell as he witnesses Gwen saving the world from behind the scenes. This story is virtually a two-hander between Gwen and Pugh (although Tom Price does make a cameo as Sergeant Andy – keep listening after the end credits) and what starts off as an odd couple comedy buddie movie becomes something much more as the day goes on.
There is a beautiful scene during which Pugh and Gwen pause for a moment and look out over Cardiff Bay – it is pitched perfectly, not maudlin or sentimental, just honest and truthful. Pugh used to come here as a child and imagine a larger world than Cardiff, but as an adult he has come to believe that his life is all there is. Pugh has suffered a great loss in his life and his mundane job seems to stop him from confronting this.
The story really is about coping with grief – does a single life matter, will we see our loved ones again when we die, is there really More Than This?
The characterisation is top notch. Eve Myles as Gwen was always the heart of Torchwood and on this mission she still takes phone calls from husband Rhys which is a clever juxtaposition of the mundane safe domestic life Gwen lives alongside the strange, dangerous job she does, yet the character happily inhabits both worlds. Oh but Richard Nichols as Roger Pugh – what an extraordinary performance! He goes from officious to terrified, to accepting, to despairing, to a beautiful epiphany – and every single emotion is real and believable. Huge kudos to Guy Adams for writing such a character, and Scott Handcock for directing, actor Richard Nichols for bringing Roger to life and Eve Myles for facilitating the emotional resonance – because these two character just “work” together  - in a situation neither of them expected to be in that morning. Both actors absolutely nail it – think of Gwen in Random Shoes and you will be pretty near the mark. The extraordinary situation forces Roger to confront his darkest day, and in another touching emotionally charged scene of acceptance.
You may get the impression that I enjoyed this one – and you would be correct! This is an extraordinary piece of writing, acting, and direction – an occasion where all the constituent parts come together to create something greater, where they really do become More Than This.
10/10.