02/11/2011

Top Boy - Top quality viewing

Ra'Nell, Dushane, Sully and Gem
I’ll have to be honest, I was worried about Top Boy. Set in Hackney, Top Boy is a 4 part mini series that portrays life on the streets of Hackney for it’s for young protagonists. I worried that it would paint the mainly young black youth that it featured in a bad light. Whilst their actions and are appalling, the storyline is such that you do find yourself rooting for the main characters. Even Dushane and Sully, brilliantly played by Asher D and Kano, who are trying to make they way up the criminal hierarchy, by any means necessary. Ra'Nell, with a mother suffering from metal health issues, is left to fend for himself; and Gem, abandoned by his mother and living with a Dad, who’s long hours mean he’s never at home.  The two youngsters Malcolm Kamulete and Giacomo Mancini deserve a mention for their understated and mature performances

There are a number of negatives, the portrayal of Hackney – I don’t live there, but know people who do and it’s not as scary as the show would have you believe. Due to the subject matter, it will, inevitably, reinforce a lot of the negative stereotyping that young black men are already subject to. It does, however, have an awful lot going for it. Whilst it isn’t exactly an advert for Hackney, the acting particularly and cinematography are superb. There are some very poignant moments, such as Ra'Nell's visit to his Mum in hospital, or Dushane bumping into his Father for the first time in years. There are also some light moments, like tonight, post a meeting with their ‘boss’ where they talked about drug, guns and sorting out rival criminals who robbed them, they get in their car and Dushane tells Sully to put his seat-belt on!

So leaving aside, reluctantly, my worry that this will inadvertently glamorise the lifestyle, rather than warn of the dangers, Top Boy is brilliant. If you've missed the first couple of episodes, catch up on line, it's definitely worth it. A great showcase for British actors, writing and production, I’ll be watching through to the end.

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