fri 19/07/2024

Martina Cole's The Runaway, Sky 1 | reviews, news & interviews

Martina Cole's The Runaway, Sky 1

Martina Cole's The Runaway, Sky 1

No shortage of gore and grime in new Cole adaptation

Joanna Vanderham as Cathy and Jack O'Connell as Eamonn in brutal East End saga

According to her website, Martina Cole is "the person who tells it like it really is". If it's really like this dramatisation of her 1997 novel The Runaway, it's unrelentingly brutal, squalid and frightening, a televisual blow to the head from a blunt instrument. Perhaps the fact that the series was shot on a giant set in South Africa helps to account for its strange atmosphere of reality assembled from an Ikea-style flatpack.

The Runaway of the title is, or is going to be in episode two, Cathy Connor (Joanna Vanderham). It's the early Sixties, and Cathy has been brought up in London's East End by her mother Madge (Kierston Wareing), a pneumatic, painted caricature of the grossest slapperhood described by her daughter as "the queen of the Commercial Road". Cathy has grown fond of Eamonn, the son of her mother's current partner Eamonn Docherty (her real father was "just passing trade"). One Christmas, Madge gets the hump because Eamonn (Mark Womack) has been consorting with another woman, and chucks him and Eamonn Jr out of her home.

"What's she got that I haven't?" demands Madge, looking like a Guy Fawkes dummy dressed up as Diana Dors by a bunch of malicious schoolboys.

"Did you ever take a look at yourself, Madge?" Eamonn retorts. "Can you blame me?"

Runaway_Allen_smallAfter the disintegration of this ménage of misery, events move at lightning speed. Young Eamonn had been aiming for a career in boxing, but we suddenly find he's been mixed up in teenage gang warfare and has impetuously shot dead one of his rivals. He's rescued by sneering hoodlum Danny Dixon (a thoroughly nasty portrayal by Keith Allen (pictured above), who has made himself look extra-evil by putting his hair on back to front). He once tried unsuccessfully to sponsor Eamonn's boxing career, but now recognises that he can exploit his perilous status as a wanted murderer. "If you take the money this time, then I own you lock, stock and fuckin' barrel," he leers (the dialogue seems to have been written by the same guy who does the roadworks signs on the M25), and Eamonn is duly absorbed into Dixon's thuggish entourage.

Runaway_GatesCathy, though still only 14, is carrying a torch for Eamonn, who expresses his undying love by popping round and raping her. She doesn't seem to mind though, and is easily mollified by the gift of a locket. Eamonn wants her to leave her mother and live with him, now that he wears suits and is on Dixon's payroll, but before this can happen further calamity strikes. One of Madge's punters starts beating her up, prompting Cathy to rush to the rescue and stab him through the neck, triggering a torrential spray of arterial blood.

The cops arrive in a fleet of vintage Wolseleys, and Detective Gates (Burn Gorman, pictured above) is disgusted by Madge and her lifestyle. "You're a real bitch Madge, bringing scum like this into your home," he adjudges, surveying the now bloodless corpse on the carpet with disgust. He gets Madge to hold the knife the way Cathy used it, to ensure that her fingerprints are on it. Madge, hampered by a split lip and possibly mild concussion, fails to spot the trap.

Runaway_Madge_Cathy_small"You are going down, Madge," he tells her, down at the nick. "I've made my mind up, and if I want you away then away you will go girl." This being the heyday of robust policing and no questions asked, Gates's boss curtly orders him to "sort it out and make it stick". Meanwhile a distraught Cathy is taken into care by a terrifying woman from social services who looks as if she ought to be attached to the prow of a battleship (Kierston Wareing and Joanna Vanderham, pictured above).

Next week: Cathy escapes from the abusive staff in the correctional facility and runs away to Soho, where she meets the "flamboyant transvestite" Desrae (played by Alan Cumming). It sounds almost totally convincing. Can we endure six episodes of this?

'You're a real bitch Madge, bringing scum like this into your home,' he adjudges, surveying the now bloodless corpse on the carpet with disgust

Share this article


Is wondering if it is possible tht there will be a follow up to the runaway I cant help but think the way it was left , left it open and maby eamonn escaped the blast I hope so ......I

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters