Kieran Bew and Ben Batt for the heart; Maxine Peake, Rakhee Thakrar and Alison Steadman for the head; Rules of the Game offers some luxury casting for a ferocious tale of post-#MeToo workplace life
“You don’t get to leave us, you’re part of this”
With obedient poodle Nadine Dorries doing her level best to distract from the utter shitshow that has become Boris Johnson’s reign by wielding a headline-stealing axe over the BBC, it feels like we ought to be celebrating whatever drama Aunty can still provide us at the moment. Latest up is Ruth Fowler’s 4-parter Rules of the Game which stars a red-hot Maxine Peake and makes Alison Steadman as scary as she’s ever been.
Set in and around the offices of Fly Dynamics, a Cheshire-based, family-run sportswear company that is on the verge of a stock market flotation designed to take them global, COO Sam finds a significant fly in the ointment when she trips over a body in their foyer. In a Big Little Lies-ish twist, we don’t find out who is it but rather, we’re plunged into the trials and tribulations of what turns out to be the most toxic of workplaces.
Fowler initially guides us through this world through the eyes of new HR director Maya who is determined to drag the company into a post-#MeToo world as she uncovers unresolved historic scandal. But she contrasts this adroitly through the character of Sam, employed there since she was 16 and fully indoctrinated into the company culture through which she has navigated her way nearly to the top.
It’s a fascinating and excoriating way of looking at the intersection of misogyny and capitalism, brilliantly essayed by Rakhee Thakrar and Maxine Peake respectively as they tread around the blokey affability of owners Owen and Gareth (played by the both too-handsome Ben Batt and Kieran Bew), all too aware of the fragility of the male egos they inevitably have to do battle with even as they lock horns with each other.
Over the four episodes, a richly interesting set of mysteries unfurl, plus Alison Steadman gets to play a deliciously rich and terrifying matriarch. And if the denouements tip a little towards the melodramatic in their resolution, there is a satisfying weightiness to the way in which its many strands are explored. Recommended.