Here There Be Spoilers
I waited to write about The Slap until the series ended (which happened last week). This was Auntie’s keystone piece of local drama for the year, based on an awarding-winning novel by Christos Tsiolkas (which is now on my must-read list). What I found particularly satisfying about the series was how the character-based narrative kept overturning my initial conceptions, each POV episode revealing new challenges, realisations, secrets and dreams as events unreel.
From the ABC series website:
This 8 –part drama series traces the shattering repercussions of a single event upon a group of family and friends.
The series starts at an Australian backyard BBQ. Amongst alcohol, friendship and a children’s cricket game a man slaps a child who is not his son. The party comes to a sudden halt. The child’s parents are so affronted they vow to take the man to court. As the series unfolds the police become involved and friends and family are forced to take sides. One cousin is forced to testify against another. Couples are caught in the crossfire. Beliefs are tested and relationships strained.
The story is told through the points of view of eight characters as the court case proceeds, as affairs begin and end, as a pregnancy is decided and marriages morph and change. Each character’s life is profoundly affected by “the slap”, and each of the main characters is metaphorically slapped as they are forced to face up to fundamental truths about themselves.
The Slap explores what happens when the veil of civility that binds us as a society, is rent aside by one disturbing action. It brings to vivid life questions of parenting, the rights of children, race, class, sexuality, and the different perspectives of men and women.
The casting has obviously been extremely carefully considered, not just in terms of who can do justice to the characters but also ensuring a few stars who are well known overseas to help with international marketing. They got it so right – the performances are absorbing. The eight characters who each form the central character of an episode are as follows (there’s a character tree on the website, and more detailed character biographies) – I’m avoiding any spoilers that are not already on the show’s website here in the post, but they will undoubtedly come up in comments:
- Episode 1 – Hector (Jonathan LaPaglia) – Hector and Aisha are the couple at whose BBQ the Slap occurs. That they are a mixed-race couple (Greek-Mauritian) is wound inextricably throughout the series narrative, especially in her relations with some members of his family, although between themselves it seems hardly acknowledged (perhaps a problem in itself?).
- Episode 2 – Anouk (Essie Davis) – Anouk is one of Aisha’s BFFs. She is the only singleton in the social group, and leads a superficially carefree and glamorous showbiz life. She’s juggling a new relationship, her mother needs daily care, and Anouk initially doesn’t take the Slap seriously at all. She’s also the only one who sees signs of Hector’s secret.
- Episode 3 – Harry (Alex Dimitriades) – Hector’s cousin, and the Slapper. Harry is used to getting his own way, in just about everything; valuing material success and social status very highly: poster boy for entitlement. He reacts extremely badly to the police questioning him. He is also a man of many secrets.
- Episode 4 – Connie (Sophie Lowe)- a senior high school student who works at Aisha’s veterinary clinic. She has a crush on Hector which she keeps absolutely secret, even from her best friend Richie. She is a regular babysitter for Hugo (the slapped boy).
- Episode 5 – Rosie (Melissa George) – Aisha’s other BFF, the mother of the slapped boy, Hugo. With husband Gary, she practises a frugal alternative and iconoclastic lifestyle, which Hector’s relatives tend to look down on. She is a fiercely protective parent, and her choice to continue breastfeeding him at age 4 raises many eyebrows.
- Episode 6 – Manolis (Lex Marinos) – Hector’s father and Harry’s uncle. He has come to despise his wife, and views his children and nephew with bewildered disappointment. He tries to mend the fragmenting social circle, but his self-doubt and bitterness sabotage his efforts.
- Episode 7 – Aisha (Sophie Okonedo) – caught in the middle of loyalty to her friends and her husband’s family regarding The Slap, Aisha realises that she’s dissatisfied with her marriage and weary of being unappreciated by Hector’s relatives. As she emotionally withdraws from the competing demands, her central role in holding the entire circle together becomes more and more obvious.
- Episode 8 – Richie (Blake Davis) – the son of Aisha’s veterinary nurse, Connie’s best friend and eventual confidant of her secret. A regular babysitter for Hugo, Richie was in charge of the cricket game at Hector’s party BBQ that led to the Slap. Confused about his own sexual identity and boundaries, he becomes obsessed by her secret to the point where nothing else matters.
The supporting characters – various partners, colleagues, old friends and new lovers – weave in and out of these episodes, their interactions building revelations and adding challenges. It’s all exceptionally well done. I was particularly impressed by one beautiful moment of writing which conveyed so much between two children eating in the kitchen with their father:
Older Child: I told you not to ask that!
Episodes are still viewable on the ABC website for Aussies.
The Slap was released on DVD by Hopscotch Entertainment on December 1. I was supposed to get a screener to review, but it never arrived (sadface). This means that I still haven’t seen the Connie episode, which is a shame, because I really enjoy Sophie Lowe’s acting.