Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Arts

It takes a village

Daisy May and Charlie Cooper’s This Country comes to an end this week. Here’s Hannah Dunleavy on why you should get busy with the catch-up service.

Country seat: bored twentysomething Kerry Mucklowe (Daisy May Cooper). Photos: BBC.

There’s a contradiction at the heart of This Country, one that means it manages to be simultaneously like so many things that have come before and a breath of fresh air.

The BBC3 mockumentary (tick) is about the dramas of young adults (tick) who get drawn into things like pyramid schemes (tick), with off-screen parents, one of whom is just a screaming voice (tick).

While it all invites numerous ‘but that’s just like…’ comparisons, what’s more telling is that it is one of the channel’s biggest success stories of recent years, earning a BBC2 repeat that’s unusual for anything in its first series. Which should convince you of its quality, if nothing else.

What marks This Country out as different is way more interesting. It’s set in a village, in the Cotswolds no less, where the normal ennui of life is amplified to the nth degree. It neither focuses on nor was written by middle-class kids. And it not only manages to sound like real people talking, it contains the sort of sing-song malapropism-riddled dialogue that’s so densely packed with gags you’d be wise to watch it twice. (“If she can’t love me for the man I am, rather than the monster I become, she can jog on back to the sea with all the other fishes.”)

Kerry with cousin Kurtan (left), played by Daisy May Cooper’s brother and co-writer Charlie.

The trump card in This Country‘s deck is the family Cooper. Written by and starring brother-and-sister team Daisy May and Charlie, it also features their dad and their uncle, a familial chemistry that serves it well. Sometimes you don’t know what you know, or indeed what you remember, until you spend time with your siblings.

In writing together, the Coopers have yanked personal experiences from their own lives, which are somehow universal, be it the never-used end-of-term tea towel covered in terrible self-portraits or a blazing row about who gets the top shelf of the oven.

Within This Country, the siblings play cousins, and they are both in fine form (although perhaps special mention should be made of the fact that Charlie Cooper isn’t – or perhaps more accurately, wasn’t – an actor and was only persuaded to be in it when no one else managed to deliver the lines as well as he did).

It’s also a rather spot-on representation of small town/village life, where your whole life is everybody else’s business and where friends aren’t necessarily people you like, as much as people you know.

All of which makes it one of the best writing debuts in years. Rarely has boredom been so entertaining.

Catch up on This Country here.

@thatdunleavy

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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.