*** Spoiler Alert**
Well, what can I say about It’s a Sin, the latest luscious offering from local lad Russell T Davies – and truthful take on the AIDS epidemic of the early 80’s on.
It was insightful, inspiring, inflammatory, with every other emotion in between – and set in my much-loved London to a superb soundtrack too.
I remember my little ears pricking up when I spotted the series in my TV Times, that new bible of mine that I buy religiously every week now as I try to keep my idle hands without the devil’s work to do during this long, lingering Lockdown.
A fan of the Swansea-born writer since Queer as Folk, and still raving about Years and Years, I quite fancied following the decade long tale of a few friends who move to London in 1981 only to see their lives changed by the a new deadly virus spreading through their community.
So there I was, with the usual Friday night feels – freshly bathed, clean Jim Jams, and the obligatory Vin Rouge close to hand as I zapped the remote control onto All4.
Of course, I meant to watch the first episode, or maybe two, before switching off and waiting a week for the next instalment. Epic fail on that one. I was hooked from almost the opening line and watched the whole series in one sharp sitting.
To be honest by the time I emerged bleary-eyed five hours later, I felt like I’d been hit by a train but bizarrely was blubbing a bit more as I didn’t want it to end.
It’s A Sin starts when the five friends find themselves in the flat named the ‘Pink Palace’. Roscoe has, with some style it must be said, run away from the threat of being taken back to Nigeria, cute Colin escapes the Welsh Valleys for a Saville Row tailors.
Hedonistic Ritchie leaves an uptight, homophobic home in the Isle of Wight. ‘Exotic’ Ash appears, and Jill, Ritchie’s best friend, completes the quintet.
Life is good on the gay scene with only a little hint of the horror to come when Colin’s colleague, and his Portuguese partner, both fall prey to a ‘rare cancer.’
But soon the queer world wakes up and we see Aids activists acutely aware of the seriousness of the virus as the States suffers a tsunami of deaths. Jill and Colin, who’s recent trip to New York sees him fired but fully aware of the crisis, joins Jill to help the cause.
Would-be actor Ritchie dives into denial, whilst the other two are largely living large as normal – even when good friend Gloria falls ill and ‘goes home’ to Glasgow, later to die. Shout out here to London LGBT Switchboard who are shown solidly giving support to those desperate for information right from the start.
And then comes the biggest blow, Colin, now working in a print shop suffers a seizure, is distressingly diagnosed with HIV, and swiftly locked up under the Public Health Act due to the ignorance of the authorities.
He is later liberated but dies a deeply disturbing to watch death in hospital leaving the friends heartbroken, and a million viewers sobbing. Not Colin I shouted – you probably heard me in Holton Road.
As always with Russell T. there is always humour amongst all that humanity. Roscoe’s fling with a closet MP full of fantasies, beautifully played by Stephen Fry, ending when he pisses in a pot of Mrs Thatcher’s coffee, a case in point.
Roscoe then races to his community who are staging one of the first HIV Awareness marches in London as all the friends, and some of their families too, join together in that spirit of solidarity.
It is at this point that the darkness deepness further, with Ritchie revealing he has finally faced his demons, taken that test, and vowing to fight the death sentence he must now serve.
Now the virus may not just be a ‘gay plague,’ though, the media start to reluctantly report on it, the Tory ‘Section 28’ Government give the country those grim gravestone adverts, and it was nice to see a nod to Lady Di whose handshake with an AIDS patient changed many a perception.
Finally, the finale. Ritchie’s ravaged body can’t cope with the increasing illnesses the virus so cruelly gives, his homophobic parents finally find out, and take him to die, alone, without those fabulous friends by his side. Keeley Hawes, who may have been seen as miscast, is a tour de force as Ritchie’s uptight Isle of Wight Mum.
For me It’s a Sin, surely told the true tale of the ‘AIDS epidemic’ – the ignorance, the prejudice and the anguish. But also the kindness, the solidarity, and the support.
In my view, everyone should watch it, and perhaps worth also putting it on every school curriculum to show our history that has largely been erased in the education system.
I was only 13 in 1980 so don’t pretend to have been at the heart of the HIV happening, I know only about celebrities who died of the disease, and only kind of understood the back story from my LGBT activism anyway.
But I am aware, that forty years on those living with HIV, which I actually now know a few, face less discrimination, less shame, and the certainty they can live a long healthy life.
Make no mistake though this series is also a commemoration to those who lost their lives to HIV despite what the death certificate may have said.
This was a tale that needed to be told.
Thanks Russell T Davies.
Sue Vincent-Jones, writing as Mrs SVJ, is a Barry born journalist, editor, and communications specialist. She blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a, quirky and queer, local girl done good.
Sue’s Views is the reboot of her much-loved infamous B&D opinion column from back in the day. Also recently resurrected as a monthly digital column in Style Of The City Magazine, it focuses on the hot topics we are all talking about in beautiful Barry, and beyond – the good, the bad…and the ugly.