Dave Allen At Peace | Review of last nights' BBC Two biopic

Dave Allen At Peace

Note: This review is from 2018

Review of last nights' BBC Two biopic

The latest in the BBC’s ‘dead comedian’ biopics was very much like the forefinger on Dave Allen’s left hand. Pointless.

It doesn’t seem to be a fitting tribute for a stand-up known for his storytelling that this drama was so poor at narrative. David Tynan O’Mahony’s life story was told in a series of scenes that almost seemed unconnected, so flimsily were the connecting threads. While the scenes themselves raked over all-too-familiar ground without getting any real measure of the man or his motives.

We started in the grey, rain-sodden Dublin streets where he receives his education at the fierce and unforgiving hands of nuns, glibly explaining his lifelong distrust of the Catholic church,

‘No good comes of laughing,’ says the stern sister played by Father Ted’s Pauline McLynn. It’s apt because he’s going to become a comedian, do you see? It’s that unsubtle.

Writer Stephen Russell, who previously did a much better job on We're Doomed! The Dad's Army Story, ticks off the expected points: Legend about how he lost that fingertip. Tick. Father’s death, a defining moment. Tick. Taking to the stage at Butlin’s Tick. Run-in with the easily offended while on the BBC. Tick.

But huge swathes of his actual career – such as transitioning from holiday camp comic to TV royalty, thanks to a stint in Australia are entirely glossed over. And there’s little serious attempt to get under the skin of the man.

A poignant final act suggests the film this could have been, as Allen’s alcoholic brother (Conleth Hill, who we hadn’t seen since Butlin’s) compares his wasted life to his sibling’s success and plays on sibling bonds, rivalry and the prickly badinage between them.

Biographical sections were interspersed with faithful recreations of sketches from Allen’s original TV series, which also seemed to serve little purpose. Sure they were linked to the themes of religion or death that were rarely far from his work, but that didn’t justify them being here. Maybe it’s just pure nostalgia, in which case why not run the originals?

However ropey the script and direction was, Aiden Gillen did a fine job of capturing the spirit of the single-minded iconoclast, while Tommy Tiernan’s likeable turn as Allen’s journalist father, inspiring his son to bend the truth for a good story, will do his steadily rising acting credentials no harm at all.

But acting talents aside, you won’t learn much about such an important figure in British and Irish comedy from watching this indifferent drama.

• Watch Dave Allen At Peace on iPlayer here.

• How Dave Allen REALLY  lost that finger.

Review date: 3 Apr 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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