“Never forget your sole responsibility is to help the men”
I somehow managed to let the first series of WPC 56 pass me by last year. It may have played in the afternoons on BBC1 but anything starring Kieran Bew ought to have been much more firmly on my radar. So in advance of the new series starting, I was pleased to see a rerun which I was able to catch on the good old iPlayer. Created by Dominique Moloney, it tells the story of Gina Dawson, the first Woman Police Constable to join Brinford Constabulary in the West Midlands.
The show managed a great balance between following Dawson’s struggles to be accepted in such a male-orientated work environment – battling not only misogynistic colleagues but also an uncomprehending family and partner – and the series-long narrative about a potential serial killer and the disappearance of two local boys. Over five episodes of 45 minutes, I have to say I really enjoyed it, and not only for Bew’s DI Burns (although that was something of a boon).
Jennie Jacques makes for an appealing lead, determined to ride out the rough play in the office, the constant requests for cups of tea and the limited workload the station chief permits her. And the fresh approach she brings to policing, the empathy she finds when interviewing the women and children affected by the various crimes of Brinford ultimately makes her indispensable, though also places her under threat as she readily volunteers for her first undercover job.
The gentle exploration of 1950s Britain is also well done – the underlying racism of the time, the rise of the Teddy Boys as a gang, the stricter social contract attached to marriage. John Light’s Chief Inspector and Gerard Horan’s Desk Sergeant both capture the 50s spirit just right, Charlie De’ath’s corrupt Sergeant is a vibrant presence, and the location shooting makes great use of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Definitely worth the watch.