Steve Pemberton

Steve Pemberton

Date of birth: 01-09-1967

Inside No 9: Merrily Merrily

Review of the latest episode in Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's anthlogy

Contains minor spoilers.

New series of Inside No 9 often kick off on a lightish tone, a gentle palate-cleanser for knottier or more chilling plots further down the line. But Merrily, Merrily strikes a melancholic note as three old university pals reunite after 30-odd years for a nostalgic trip on an eerily empty lake.

It’s a reunion, too, between creators Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith and their old League Of Gentleman colleague Mark Gatiss – who did indeed all meet while students at theatre school. Their real-life relationship is surely less distant than their characters here – although the parallels between fact and fiction add extra significance to the episode.

Shearsmith’s Lawrence, who has convened the get-together, has barely moved on from his student days. Gatiss’s Callum has risen to the top of the medical profession, while Pemberton’s Darren seems to have drifted since he dropped out of his sports science course.

He also didn’t read the invitation properly and thought they were going on a swanky boat party, so brought along his girlfriend Donna. Diane Morgan adds her trademark brash rough-diamond humour to the three men on a boat and has many of the funniest lines.

But, as always, there are jokes subtle and not-so-subtle littered throughout. But as the old friends rake over their shared history and catch up on what they’ve been doing since uni, Darren’s belief that pedalos were called ‘paedos’ makes sense beyond the gag.

As the water gets deeper, so too do the complex relationships between the characters, for good and bad. And when they get paralysed by weeds, just as twilight falls, Lawrence’s true reason for calling the reunion becomes apparent.

To say more would spoil the conclusion, which is a poignant one. We’ve only known these people for half an hour, but the skill of Pemberton and Shearsmith’s writing is that we feel we know them, giving resonance to the payoff.

• Inside No 9: Merrily Merrily is available on iPlayer

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Published: 20 Apr 2022

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