The Slap: articles

Jonathan LaPaglia (Hector) and Sophie Lowe (Connie) in The Slap.

TV series based on Christos Tsiolkas novel The Slap debuts on ABC1

PARENT or not, everybody has been at a barbecue like the one which ignites the action in new ABC series The Slap.

Judging how other people raise their children, as well as the role the "village" of extended family and close friends plays in that process, has fuelled water-cooler talk since the launch of Christos Tsiolkas' acclaimed novel in 2008.

Now, after the debut of arguably the best Australian drama produced this year, The Slap should escalate that conversation to fever pitch.

For those who missed last night's first episode, the story centres on the 40th birthday barbie of Greek-Australian Hector (Jonathan LaPaglia), married to Anglo-Indian Aisha (Sophie Okonedo) while flirting with the idea of an affair with their teenage babysitter, Connie (Sophie Lowe).

Aisha's friend Rosie (Melissa George) and her alcoholic husband Gary (Anthony Hayes) arrive with son Hugo, a cyclonic four-year-old who is still breastfed on demand.

More than a few drinks in, Gary picks a fight with Hector's cousin Harry (Alex Dimitriades) over private schools as the gaggle of kids take up a cricket bat for a game.

When Hugo refuses to concede he is out, swinging the bat wildly, it is Harry who steps in to restrain the child, who retaliates by kicking him.

And then comes the slap - across the child's face, with reverberations to play out over this eight-part series.

The production itself captures the same "suburban scream'' tone of Love My Way and Tangle, with Dimitriades, Lowe and George delivering breathtaking performances that should be recognised worldwide.

The moral minefield they walk is one that will be familiar to all: are you a smacker? If not you, who can discipline your kids? When does it become assault? Would you press police charges?

Or when should you stop breast-feeding? Can you drink and and still breastfeed? Can you be an alcoholic/cocaine abuser and still be a responsible parent?

Are childless friends entitled to an opinion on any or all of the above?

The mummy bloggers will no doubt be debating these questions and beyond, the PC police spouting about "positive discipline'' and naughty steps.

But what's great about this series is the shades of grey, the quick sand which consumes those who take the high ground.

And therein lies the warning: tread carefully with this one, or brace yourself for the slap down.

The Slap airs 8.30pm Thursdays on ABC1

By Holly Byrnes
October 07, 2011
The Daily Telegraph