‘Landscapers’ review: A 20-year tale continues to inspire

Written by Guest Writer Eric Goldschein

View the “Landscapers” trailer

“Landscapers” is a real-life British crime mystery that’s captivated millions of viewers over the last 20 years and for good reason.

Created by David Hinds, the story begins in 1993, in the street of a working-class district of Liverpool, with local aristocrat Barton “Bap” Battingham, his wife, Grace, and their two young sons Matthew and Freddie.

Barton is part of the exclusive shoe and footwear dynasty known as the Adairs — but he can barely scrape together enough money to fix his car, which breaks down on the way home from his weekly shoe sales.

Image caption Olivia Colman and David Thewlis at the premiere of “Landscapers”

Once inside, he struggles to explain to his sons that he’ll be unable to come home that night. Soon after, the worst happens — Freddie is killed in a serious road accident.

Grace and Barton, along with their children, trudge through the city, desperately searching for answers — no matter how grave.

As they do, their experience becomes a microcosm of the country at large, when the death toll multiplies, families are torn apart, and the broken world of Birmingham suddenly has all its streets — and its institutions — turned upside down.

Hinds developed the show in 1995 with the Tricycle Theatre in London and BBC television broadcast the pilot on BBC 1 on September 25, 1996. It ran for two years before moving to BBC2, and then to BBC1 in 2000.

The show won awards for “The Tricycle Theatre Award for Best Off-Broadway Play”, and “Most Popular Off-Broadway Play of the Year” in 2000.

Image caption View the “Landscapers” Christmas TV episode

In all, ten million viewers tuned in for the final episode on BBC 1 in December 2006, while the show is still one of the most widely seen in the UK.

Its popularity has only grown in the last decade, with new installments broadcast as recently as September, and the Tricycle Theatre hosting a live, bespoke stage performance in 2016 featuring a cast of actors playing the characters played by Wayne Sleep, Pauline Collins, Lindsay Duncan, and writer and director David Hinds himself.

Olivia Colman and David Thewlis (pictured above) are reprising their roles as Grace and Barton, as well as their roles as the Brothers Battingham.

The two stars have great chemistry — and a love of naturalism — to draw on.

“It’s a rare and beautiful thing when an actor can play a part that requires the creation of complete, subtle, eccentric characters, but can also be warm and human,” Hinds says of the drama, “without the psychological complexity sown into the script.”

He’s moved on to more contemporary work — “Landscapers” co-stars David Thewlis (who earned Oscar nominations for his performances in both the “Harry Potter” and “Shakespeare in Love” films) as Clive Beckwith, an art dealer and Barton’s fellow Manchester U.E.E. member, who also becomes a key character.

See the US premiere of “Landscapers” on Universal HD this Thursday, January 17 at 9 p.m. ET.

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