We Recommend: Mrs Biggs
The pure existence of Mrs Biggs is a revelation - a quality ITV drama (that doesn't feature an abbey) is a rare thing but one with such powerhouse performances by the lead cast is almost unheard of. The five episode mini series doesn't focus on the more famous member of the Biggs household, played by Daniel Mays here, but instead on his wife, Charmian (nee. Powell) and it's Sheridan Smith in this title role that really impresses. Her transformation from sub-par comedy to top-flight drama has come about remarkably quickly; cementing herself as a quality actress in the likes of the recent second series of BBC One's Accused and the new Brit-horror flick, Tower Block. We genuinely didn't think she had it in her, but it seems her theatre stint has worked wonders - she really is one of our best young actresses.
The first episode rapidly covered the early years of the Biggs' relationship; covering their marriage and birth of their children. Laying the groundwork for what is sure to become a tense ride prepping us for the 'big' event that would seal the Bigg's future fortunes - the Great Train Robbery; the repercussions of which have been followed through with a reasonable level of accuracy during later episodes. The feel of the sixties has been captured perfectly; clothing, hair styles and vehicles all offer an air of authenticity as does the grain that perforates every scene.
Jeff Pope's script is solid, maybe a little unremarkable and pacing is a minor concern - maybe spreading the fairly limited material over five episodes was a little optimistic and some judicious editing could have brought the episode count down without any real loss of content or context and would have lead to a much more concise, punchy viewing experience. That said the direction is top drawer helped along by what was obviously a decent budget.
What could have been another run-of-the-mill drama has in fact benefited from the change of perspective brought on by following Charmian's story along with performances and direction that wouldn't have been out of place in a much bigger feature. Recommended.