Transgressive fiction often paints the best pictures because it's unchained from polite sensibilities. The artists colour outside the lines and they tell everyone else to eff off. The same punky energy permeates every episode of Rain Dogs, the debut series from Cash Carraway. Her pictures ripple with brilliant shock and nausea and humour.
Single mother/sex worker Costello (Daisy May Cooper) writing on an inflatable flamingo, which doubles as her daughter’s bed. Costello’s posh mate Selby (Jack Farthing) urinating in her bath. An urn of ashes thrown into a swimming pool. Cunnilingus in a food bank. Drunken sex in a funeral parlour, inches from a corpse. These kinds of images tend to be locked away in Irvine Welsh novels, but Carraway unabashedly delivers them on-screen with a tangible rawness that boomerangs between the funny and the serious.
Left to right:Lenny (Adrian Edmondson), Costello (Daisy May Cooper) and Iris (Fleur Tashjian). Photo: BBC/Sid Gentle Films/HBO/Simon Ridgway
Costello rushes across London to make ends meet. She tells her nine-year-old daughter Iris (Fleur Tashjian, in her debut role) that ‘if you live an interesting life, people are always gonna be chasing after you.’ The people in this case are the bailiffs outside their flat, arriving before Costello takes Iris to school in a black cab she can’t afford. She then heads to a peep show in central London to dance for men masturbating behind glass. But in every spare moment, Costello opens a small laptop and writes her novel.
She enjoys and despises an unlikely love/hate friendship with Selby, who was educated at public school and earns money from mummy (Anna Chancellor) or through glory holes in public toilets. He’s like a camp thespian without a stage, rich in wealth but deprived of love. Costello and Iris are vital in his life, and he attempts to rebrand himself as a surrogate father figure.
The focus on this bizarre mother-daughter-'father' dynamic occasionally neglects the stories at the side. The eccentric characters of Costello's undertaker friend Gloria (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo) and the dying pornographic artist Lenny (Adrian Edmondson) aren’t fleshed out enough over eight succinct episodes. So please, BBC and HBO, provide a second season to explore their absurd tales even further.
Jack Farthing as Florian Selby. Photo: BBC/Sid Gentle Films/HBO/James Pardon
Daisy May Cooper has come a long way since This Country (starring in a film, a panel show, and three sitcoms), and she’s perfectly cast in Rain Dogs. You can’t imagine anyone else in that role, especially given Cooper’s working-class background, providing the character with such authenticity. She’s a furiously funny actor, but her dramatic side is staggering. Costello clearly reins in her true darkness for her daughter, even going sober, and those buried traumas threaten to spill over. In these moments, Cooper's unforgettable eyes look ready to explode.
Some of the best scenes are those mixing severity and hilarity together. A virtue-signalling newspaper photographer (Tom Durant-Pritchard) takes Costello’s pictures at the peep show for an article she's writing, and requests some shots in her costume. ‘Oh, no,’ she responds. ‘No one asked Hemingway when to get his t**s out, did they?’
Maybe the grit and the bleak aren’t the best balms for our current times, but strangely, Rain Dogs is an easy binge. Carraway not only avoids fetishising misery and poverty, but she mocks the common motivations to do so. Costello refuses to stop going and going, with Iris as her motivating star in the gutter and Selby as her occasionally abusive guardian angel. Despite the odds being unfairly stacked against her, Costello tries, tries, tries again.
Rain Dogs airs on Tuesday 4 April at 10:40pm on BBC One, with all episodes available now on BBC iPlayer.
|What||Rain Dogs, BBC One review|
04 Apr 23 – 04 Apr 24, ON BBC ONE / iPLAYER
|Website||Click here for more information|