I’ve had quite a few chats recently, on-line and off, about the merits of the work of Laura Fraser. They resulted from her appearance in Small Faces which was one of last month’s ‘You Have Been Watching’ featured films (see You Have Been Watching…Small Faces) and my claim was that she is an underrated actor who hadn’t been seen nearly enough in recent years. With impeccable timing two new Scottish drama’s premiered last week BBC 1’s Single Father and BBC3’s Lip Service, both of which feature Laura Fraser.
Fraser often plays the conscience of the dramas in which she appears, and is often the character who is the catalyst for change in others. There is something about her that suggests dependability. Even when her characters’ life is in turmoil she is there for others. In Small Faces she is wise beyond her years, and in other Scottish features such as The Flying Scotsman and 16 Years of Alcohol, she ‘saves’ the male lead. Even in medieval blockbuster A Knights Tale, she manages to keep her head when all around her are dancing to David Bowie.
I think that it is high time that Laura Fraser was given her due. Yes she has appeared in The Match and Kevin and Perry Go Large, but then Bobby Carlyle has been in Plunkett and Macleane and The Stone of Destiny (a contender for the worst Scottish film of all time), and Peter Mullan recently graced the Roman/Gothic gubbins that was The Last Legion, and nobody thinks the less of them for it. Even when appearing in something that is not perhaps the best of quality (such as Nina’s Heavenly Delights) Fraser always delivers a stand out performance.
To understand what I mean take a look at the new BBC dramas mentioned above. In Single Father, which was almost unbearable to watch at times such was its emotional impact, Fraser plays the recently deceased wife of David Tennant (who is proving to be a quite phenomenal actor). Appearing mostly in flashbacks, she has little screen time but manages to convey her importance to husband and family; a key role as the audience has to believe the depth of his awful grief. Single Father is worth anybody’s time as the script, and particularly the central performances, are moving, surprisingly subtle, and engaging.
Lip Service is none of these things, and if the first couple of episodes are anything to go by, Laura Fraser is the only one who is actually called on to act or show any emotional depth. The central character of Frankie, played by Ruta Gedmintas, is so spectacularly unlikeable that it may just be the greatest performance of the year. She channels Kevin the Teenager and Shane McCutcheon, a remarkably similar character from The L Word, the Showtime drama which was obviously another influence. I think that Lip Service wants to be a lesbian Queer as Folk, but in terms of the writing and characterisation they are poles apart and, perhaps most importantly, Lip Service is nowhere near as brave. Not surprising when you discover that writer Harriet Braun’s other credits include Hotel Babylon. Like that show it is glamorous and vacuous, and, while that will be enough for some, it all feels a bit clichéd. Perhaps I’m being overly harsh, and I realise it is a considerable success that a lesbian drama should be made at all, but when the chance arrives the result should be better than this. Special mention must go to the sex scene in the morgue, complete with cadaver on table, which is laughable, and not in any good way.
Here are a couple of trailers for Single Father and Lip Service. Single Father is worth watching although it is not always easy. Lip Service is only worth watching for Laura Fraser: