Craven by Amelia Bullmore

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15 Minute Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 27-31 August 2012
Amelia Bullmore's police drama returned to the 15-Minute Drama slot with a complicated tale involving cannabis, two severed fingers, Vietnamese immigrants and a search for a major drug-dealer. All part of the police officer's lot these days, in a world where crime is often much more complicated than in the past. At least, this seems to be the case in fictional terms: the world of Ted Willis' Dixon of Dock Green is light years away now.
As with many successful dramas of the genre, however, the principal attraction of Craven is not so much the plot but the complex characterization. In Maxine Peake's performance, DCI Craven comes across as a fundamentally decent person, whose life, both personal and professional, seems hamstrung by a series of obstacles. At work she has to report to DSI Tooley (Paul Warriner), whose attitude towards her has been clouded by the fact that she arrested his son several years ago for drug offences. In her personal life she would like to continue her affair with Maccer (Jack Deam), but he believes that there is little future for either of them. Hence Craven comes across as rather isolated - someone who tries to make the best of a complicated life.
Constructed as a first-person narrative, Craven not only tells a good story but discloses the character's feelings. It is as if she needs the listeners' moral support in order to survive; otherwise, she would have no one to turn to. This does not make her any less proficient at her job; but nonetheless reveals the kind of human weaknesses which render her live believable. Even the best police officer has moments of self-doubt or loneliness.
Maxine Peake gives a truly memorable characterization in the title role. Although prone to moments of optimism, her voice often reveals a weariness that seems all too understandable - especially when she has to cope with so many difficulties, whether professional or personal. The producer was Justine Potter.