TV Review: Life (Series 1)

Mike Bartlett’s new TV show Life is rich in middle-class miseries and stellar performances from Victoria Hamilton and Alison Steadman

“One can’t have blessings without sufferings”

My main feelings about Mike Bartlett’s Life revolve around Rachael Stirling and thus are somewhat spoilerific – consider yourself warned! I was highly excited to see Stirling back on our screens so I was a tad disappointed when it turned out that her character was in fact a ghost and could only be seen by her grieving husband Adrian Lester.

But then when it was revealed that she was in fact a bisexual ghost – a proper shout at the TV moment – and her entanglements drew in at least one other, it was a glorious pay-off which almost, almost made up for her not being a full-on member of the ensemble. And its a hefty ensemble, set in a large house split into four flats in which four sets of tenants are all facing their own trials.

(C) Neil Sherwood

Terminal diagnoses, imploding marriages, impending births, imploding engagements, recurring alcoholism and dead wives are just the starting point and there are moments where you do wonder if this is just middle-class torture porn as it isn’t always immediately clear that there’s any light at the end of the tunnel for these folks.

But a quality cast keeps you engaged throughout. Steadman and Stirling are reliably excellent, supported by Peter Davison and Lester respectively, Melissa Johns and Erin Kelleyman seriously impress from the younger generation and reprising her character from Doctor Foster, Victoria Hamilton is heartbreakingly perfect as a woman struggling to make a new life for herself in the face of that no-good-but-oh-so-handsome Adam James cheating on her. Highly recommended.  

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