Doing Money, BBCiPlayer, screenplay by Gwyneth Hughes and directed by Lynsey Miller.

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There are facts and there is fiction and there is factual fiction and fictional fact, so based on a true story, well, everything needs to ring absolutely true. Gwyneth Hughes and Lynsey Miller have pulled it off. Ninety minutes of drama and not a bum note.

Here’s the facts. We get them added on at the end, a rolling script. Around five million women in the world are traded as sex slaves. Multiply that fact by a factor of two, or five or ten.

Here’s the facts. Ana who testified before the Irish Parliament and told them about her being abducted from a London street during daylight and forced to work as a sex slave led to changes in the laws regarding modern-day-slavery.

Here’s the facts (always read the small print) the men that abducted her received up to three years in prison. Let’s say they’ll be out in a year. And able to set up immediately trading other women.

It’s the economy stupid. Galway, Belfast, Cork, Stockholm.  Ana played by Anca Dumitra has one of those conversations that begin with ‘why don’t you let me go?’  with her blonde female pimp, Ancuta (Cosmina Stratan) who has learned to answer the phone with ‘hallo baby’ and hide the claws until they need to be shown.

Ana owes them money. They bought her for thirty-thousand euros and Ana has to pay it back. When Ana hits back with that she paid that back in about ten days and can’t walk because of it (anal sex cost extra and without a condom even more) Ancuta has the answer, it’s not enough. They have expenses and they are feeding and taking care of her. They can always sell to Dubai where they’ll love her until she dies.

The other girls, they can accept that. When the cops raid the place, they say they are happy working as escort girls. Ancunta, clicks her tongue and tells an Irish female officer it’s not their fault if they let themselves get fat and don’t want to do sex. They’re picking up the slack. They’re making money.

We all know about Stockholm syndrome. Skinny (Voica Oltean) has a blue star tattooed to her wrist a reminder that the boyfriend that sold her as sex slave when she was thirteen will come back for her. We all know he won’t.

This is a brutally honest drama. I hope it wins a stack of awards. But to be brutally honest we don’t really give a fuck. Trump with his build-a- wall mania and praise for telling it like it is about ‘shitty countries’, Brexit and hate Mail.  Italy, Turkey, Poland, and pan-European jingoistic hatred, which  fans the flames of in which people like Ana are disposable goods and their value is decreasing on the open market day by day. Human scapegoats. Where have I heard, ‘let them drown?’ not on scandal sheets, but from party leaders. So yeh, Doing Money, great drama. It’s the economy, stupid. That’s the reality.  There’ll be lots more than Ana Doing Money and unless it’s your son or daughter…


Geez A Break Productions of Cinderella, at 543 Club for The Golden Friendship Club.

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My old mate Jim McLaren invited me to the Christmas show for pensioners, even though I’m the same age as him and I’m not doddery, yet, although I can’t remember the last time I was at Panto and I hate Christmas. And I especially detest people who put their Christmas decorations up after Halloween and then wait until near Easter to put wee bunnies and eggs wrapped in red ribbons up on their walls. And you know what I think of people who buy Christmas presents in the January sales for next year. And when I come to think of it, I’ve never been to Panto before.  Boo-hiss. I think Jim was trying to tell me something, I might even enjoy myself without being drunk. Boo-hiss. (I sneaked in a half bottle of Eldorado and drank in a oner in the toilet, but sshhhh, don’t tell anybody).

But the first thing I noticed was somebody sleeping soundly, with a jacket over his head, in the seats at the corner table, near the fire exit. Perhaps he knew something I didn’t.  Right enough, his great-granny was there and when he woke up she gave him a dummy, but that was no excuse for him not greeting.

Well, the baby McLaren missed a great show. I hadn’t heard of Geez A Break Productions. I guess that’s us even, as they won’t have heard of me.

As a writer I’m interested in the use of language and storytelling. If you don’t know the story of Cinderella then your heid needs looking at. The Fairy Godmother speaks and sings in rhyme. Cinders, Buttons and the Ugly Sisters actors use Glasgow dialect. There are risqué jokes that aren’t much of a risk and singing and dancing. Over the years the wooden floor in the 543 has, no doubt, been barracked by stacks of people up dancing to The Sash and The Slosh, but I guess that’s the first time it’s been done with glittery magic shoes for the latter, and as a backdrop to being lost in the forest. And there was gies a Brecht in the best pantomime way as the performers addressed the audience directly. Oh, yes they did…Oh, no they didn’t. Oh, yes they did…

Costumes were terrific and the stage set perfect in its simplicity. My only gripe would be the use of microphones. I guess with quick costume changes and microphones attached to the collars might not be do-able on a small budget. But when The Fairy Godmother used her wand to magical effect so that Cinders could go to the ball was a show-stopping moment. With one shake of her hips Cinders had been converted from blonde, bright and beautiful with a great singing voice to blonde bright and beautiful with a great singing voice, but with a snazzy new blue dress on. A conjurer’s trick that was a delight to the eyes.

But sometimes the unscripted makes things better. Susan, who got a bit caught up in the performance and thought Lavvy, one of the ugly sisters, was a bit of a bully. She responded to requests from Buttons that anyone wanted to try on the glittery slipper that we know is a match for only one foot by wandering on to the stage. Magically, it fitted her. And as we know Cinderella always finishes with the lived happily ever after anthem and married Prince Charming. The last time I was at the 543 it was dark, miserable and less than charming, there was a punch up outside. But that’s a Grimm’s story for other times, not guilty, your honour.

The Last Tommies, BBC 4, 9pm, BBCiPlayer, directed by Nick Maddocks

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Episode One: For King and Country

This is the kind of documentary series that the BBC does so well using archive footage and interviewing those that remember The Great War. We are shown a Zeppelin, which could travel at eighty miles per hour and carry two tons of explosive and told about the raid on Hull. An eyewitness remembered how shocking it was, how families sheltered under the kitchen table, the horror of twenty people being killed and the morbid fascination of a house being blown apart and being able to see into somebody’s bedroom.

Inevitably, there’s the middle-class girl, with the pucker voice, unpaid volunteers for the WD, who lied about their age, said she was twenty, but was seventeen and was sent to war to assist (auxiliary) nurses to those nurses that had formal training and were paid. She tells us they got the dirty work. She didn’t much like carrying a leg in a bucket to be incinerated.

Then we had the other middle-class chap that thought it was his duty, everyone’s duty to repel those that were going to invade our country. All the water in the English Channel couldn’t cool his ardour.

We had the girl left behind, all four-foot eleven of her, a scrap of bones and hair, working as a house maid, when she gets that telegram. She’d wrote, of course, she had, that she’d wait forever for him. Forever came too soon.

We had the Scot from Glasgow, called Rabbie Burns, who heard the pipe music and joined up. A clerk, his boss, told him to be quick about it, or he’d miss the fun, home for Christmas.

The Battle of Loos, the Pals Battalion, mud up to the knees and lice feeding on every living body and rats feasting on the chest cavities of the dead. The pal that lost the pal, go forward go forward. Looks left and that man disappears. Looks right and that Tommy bites it.

At home, women take up the slack, twelve hour shifts in the munition factories, working day and night. I never thought I’d get through it, one woman worker tell us, but I did, and you get used to it.

The War to End All Wars. Here are those that did their bit and for what? The rich to get rich and the poor to get poorer.  Answers  not in the bank book but on the ballot box. Remember that old gag, Homes fit for heroes. How long did that last?