Foul Play at the Fair

Daily Mail (London), October 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Foul Play at the Fair


Byline: PETER PATERSON

Tunnel Of Love (ITV1); Monarchy By David Starkey (C4)

EVEN if last night's fairground drama, Tunnel Of Love, staged its main amorous encounters between Jack Dee's Roy and Josephine Butler's Carol on what most of us would recognise as the ghost train, its heart was always in the right place.

This was a rather sweet Simon Nye comedy of life among the stallholders and bumper-car operators of a nowadays unusual fairground, one that occupied a static site rather than travelling from place to place.

It wasn't surprising that dark interests wished to get rid of this assemblage of rifle ranges, coconut shies and roundabouts precariously (in more senses than one) occupying an urban space ripe, as they say, for development.

But this was the first time I can remember today's preoccupation with health and safety combining with the compensation culture to bring us a criminal, rather than a bureaucratic, conspiracy.

Maybe, if you could penetrate the nostalgic soundtrack music, we were supposed to hear the metronome of public opinion swinging.

It is always a pleasant surprise to find deadpan comedian Jack Dee in an acting role, if only to discover that the man can crack his face into a rather engaging smile when required.

His Roy Phelps was the proprietor of the fairground, presumably living on the rents paid by the oddballs running the various attractions, but much of the time he seemed to regard himself as a welfare officer.

The little community lived in caravans - more in the style of a trailer park than traditional Romany dwellings - with actors such as Sandra Bee, Imogen Byron and Jasper Holmes hamming it up for all they were worth as settled nomads.

Roy's right-hand man, Sean, eagerly helped himself to the young girls who always hang around fairgrounds, a part made for Cristian Solimeno, who played randy centre forward Jason Turner in Footballers' Wives. Roy detached Sean from his favourite role, swankily riding the bumper cars and chatting up girls, to act as a detective after two accidents occurred at the fairground in the same week.

He was set to keep an eye on schoolteacher Mr Gibson (Mark Heap) after he issued a writ for whiplash injuries sustained on the water attraction.

Then a young girl, Kimberley (Lauren Taylor), fell from the (not very) big dipper and broke her arm, bringing her terrifying father (Steve Speirs) round to intimidate Roy - not an easy task. Kimberley also carried a medical report and a solicitor's letter in her wake.

Since Roy had no accident insurance, two successful claims would wipe out the fairground, and the local newspaper and the police also began expressing alarm about the safety of the rides. …

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