The latest new local drama to hit our screens, Ten pound pomis a co-production between Stan and the BBC.
Created by Danny Brocklehurst (Sex education, sure, accused, Brassico) centers on the chapter on post-World War II immigration, when the British were promised a new life there for just ten pounds.
Aboard an ocean liner are Annie (Faye Marsay) and Terry Roberts (Warren Brown) and children Pattie (Hattie Hook) and Peter (Finn Treacy), with high hopes that Terry’s drunken ways can be left behind in sunny Oz .
But arriving in Sydney in 1956, the plan came with strings, including handing over passports for two years and living in a migrant hostel camp that resembles army barracks. For Annie & Terry it is a shock to the system and in stark contrast to the advertising at home.
“We’ve come halfway around the world to live in squalor,” Annie sighs.
Worse is to come when Terry is given a ditch-digging job, because few Australians want to do it. There she meets the overbearing larrikin Dean (David Field), bent on making his life torture. Even factory worker Ron (Rob Collins), who previously fought for Australia overseas, is helpless as he watches: Indigenous Australians are at the bottom of the pile in this era, with Aunt May (Trisha Morton-Thomas) literally sent to the back of a shop queue.
Also important is the young nurse Kate (Michelle Keegan) who arrives without her fiancé and is hiding a secret, but surreptitiously pursuing personal business as a spy on a mission.
There are subplots surrounding expat Bill (Leon Ford) who resorts to desperate measures to achieve the Aussie dream, and hostel manager JJ (Stephen Curry) who is intimate with Brit Sheila (Emma Hamilton) when he’s not complaining about the “whiny poms”.
The series is beautifully produced with colorful period sets and costumes, and the acting is top notch. Warren Brown underplays the male lead as a fish out of water trying to adjust to Australian ways. Brocklehurst lays the talk over a thick layer of upside-down pineapple pies, outdoor dunnies, “strewths,” “ooroos,” and quips like “You’ve got better luck spotting a one-legged wallaby peeing on a kiwi’s grave.” “.
David Field is downright menacing as a violent and malicious bully who is blatantly racist in this 1956. It’s an outstanding performance in a strong ensemble. Stephen Curry is always reliable when the TV asks him to turn on the ocker.
Presented directly to a British audience, Ten pound pom it’s like a well done comedy on TV. He’s tightly knit, rarely puts a foot wrong, and works his way up to the episode’s climax, one in particular that will see Rob Collins step up with a strong First Nations storyline.
The costumes are a bit too pristine and I noticed double decker trains, only introduced in the mid 60’s, oops…
Special mention for the scenes depicting the first night of Australian television with actors such as Bruce Gyngell, Toni Lamond and Frank Sheldon.
Yet for all its nice attributes and easy gunplay at our expense, it lacks one edge, aside from Field’s terrifying bullying. These Australians mostly hate the British, subjecting them to poverty, abuse, torment, pranks, spiders, jellyfish, teachers who inflict corporal punishment and orphanages run by draconian priests. At least they love our beaches.
Ten pound pom he might lean more on the BBC than Stan in his portrayal of this chapter in our history, but he’s easily entertaining without demanding too much of his audience, and will bring light to those for whom this is a seemingly dark story.
Ten Pound Poms is shown on Stan on Mondays.