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DVD Review

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Year of the Rabbit


Starring: Matt Berry, Alun Armstrong, Freddie Fox, Susan Wokoma, Paul Kaye, Ann Mitchell and Keeley Hawes
Distributor: Acorn Media International
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 22 July 2019

Matt Berry stars as Detective Inspector Rabbit in Year of the Rabbit, an original comedy for Channel 4 set in Victorian London. This six-part series sees Rabbit and his two new side kicks battling the underworld of 1887 London. Detective Sergeant Wilbur Strauss is new to the force and his hapless and by-the-book approach doesn't fit in well with Rabbit's way of getting the job done. The chief of police's lewd but insightful adoptive daughter is desperate to become the country's first female officer and manages to tag along with Rabbit's investigations. Together, the trio must fight crime while rubbing shoulders with street gangs, crooked politicians, Bulgarian princes, spiritualists, music hall stars and the Elephant Man...

Year of the Rabbit takes elements from several familiar genres and smashes them together creating something that on paper sounds bloody awful, but works incredibly well.

Out of the three main cast, Susan Wokoma's Mabel Wisbech is the most endearing. Eager to be the first female police officer in London, the show cleverly side-steps the question of colour (apart from one throw away line) and instead focuses on the fact that she will never get into the police as she's a woman. Her ability to keep up with Rabbit as he breaks the case is handled well, as is her occasional naivety. She's smart in some areas but not when it comes down to knowing who to trust.

Freddie Fox's Detective Sergeant Wilbur Strauss is the total opposite of Rabbit. With his boyish good looks, public schoolboy education and strictly by-the-book ethics, Rabbit is reluctant to be paired with him, but the two manage to work well as a team.

Another highlight is the inclusion in several episodes of David Dawson as Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man). The makeup is convincing and Dawson's portrayal as Merrick as a theatrical luvvie is one of the show's most amusing aspects.

The first half of the series progresses well, but after that it felt like the writers had started to run out of steam with regards to Mabel and Detective Inspector Tanner (Peter Kaye) Rabbit's arch-enemy. Other cast members include Keeley Hawes and Craig Parkinson, Sally Phillips, Jill Halfpenny and Alun Armstrong.

The show is helped greatly by impressive sets and colourful background characters and it does reward with repeat viewing. The cinematography is straight out of a period drama, whilst the cast play the comedy straight, which makes it feel more highbrow than it actually is. This is how all comedy drama should be approached.


Darren Rea

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