Man in an Orange Shirt is possibly one of the most-talked about British dramas in recent memory. Originally shown in two parts as part of BBC 2’s Gay Britannia season earlier this year, Man in an Orange Shirt received widespread critical acclaim and social media was buzzing about it. The mini-series told two love stories that were related to one another but took place decades apart.
The first part tells the story of soldier Michael Berryman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who falls in love with fellow soldier Thomas March (James McArdle) following World War II. The two men embark on a secret relationship, which is thrown into turmoil when Michael decides to marry childhood friend Flora (Joanna Vanderham). As Michael tries to conceal his true sexuality whilst still harbouring feelings for Thomas, his wife begins to get suspicious and his marriage is put under tremendous strain.
The second part is set in the present day and continues Flora’s (this time played by Vanessa Redgrave) story. She is now living with her grandson Adam (Julian Morris) who is in the closet but enjoys random hook-ups with strangers he meets on dating apps. Adam is unaware of his grandparents’ history and when he meets vet Steve (David Gyasi) he starts to consider forming a real relationship and living as an out gay man.
Man in an Orange Shirt is written by author Patrick Gale and is based loosely on his own discovery about the marriage of his parents. The mini-series is absolutely gripping and for this review I had planned to watch it in two sittings but I was so hooked I watched the entire thing in one go. Man in an Orange Shirt explores the issues and difficulties that its central characters faced in the different times their stories are set. For Michael and Thomas it was having to hide their love for fear of being arrested and imprisoned whereas for Adam it’s dealing with his own shame that surrounds his sexuality.
The cast of the mini-series is exceptional. Oliver Jackson-Cohen is distractingly handsome and he’s a damn fine actor. He plays Michael with brilliance and really communicates the frustration and struggle the character is trying to deal with. Even when he does some seriously selfish things, Jackson-Cohen makes you root for him and you feel sympathetic towards him. Julian Morris, best known for US dramas Pretty Little Liars and Once Upon a Time, gives his finest performance to date as Adam. He really gives his all to the character and his commitment is unflinching.
The supporting cast is superb too. Vanessa Redgrave adds serious gravitas and David Gyasi, James McArdle and Joanna Vanderham are perfectly cast in their respective roles.
Man in an Orange Shirt is a stunning mini-series. It’s beautifully written with stellar performances from its talented cast. The story is engaging and emotive, and it really struck a chord with me. The way in which the two parts work together is magnificent and dare I say it’s the best drama that I’ve seen on the BBC in a very, very long time.
Cast: Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Julian Morris, Vanessa Redgrave, David Gyasi, James McArdle, Joanna Vanderham, Frances de la Tour Director: Michael Samuels Writer: Patrick Gale Certificate: 15 Duration: 120 mins Released By: Network Releasing Release Date: 18th September 2017