The Slap: articles

TV: The Slap

FEW Australian dramas have been as eagerly anticipated as The Slap, ABC's eight-part drama based on Christos Tsiolkas' award-winning 2008 novel of the same name.

When news filtered through that the first two episodes of the series would premiere back-to-back at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, tickets sold out almost instantly. Bookstores around the country shipped in the TV tie-in version of the novel, its cover now featuring portraits of the show's stars Jonathan LaPaglia, Sophie Okonedo and Melissa George.

The stakes are extremely high; and the first couple of episodes live up to the hype — and then some.

True to the book, each episode is told from a different character's point of view. Viewers are introduced to the ensemble cast through the eyes of Hector (LaPaglia), a successful husband and father who looks to have it made. But Hector's harbouring a few secrets — like a year-long affair with the 17-year-old receptionist at his wife Aisha's (Okonedo) veterinary clinic, and the deep-seated feeling that Aisha is little more than "a controlling bitch". But all that is cast aside for one afternoon as Aisha throws a backyard barbecue for his 40th birthday. The guests include Hector's cocky cousin Harry (Alex Dimitriades), hippie Rosie (George) and her husband Gary (Anthony Hayes), Hector's overbearing Greek parents Manolis (Lex Marinos) and Koula (Toula Yianni) and the object of the birthday boy's desire, schoolgirl Connie (Sophie Lowe).

Their lives are thrown into turmoil when Harry slaps four-year old Hugo, the son of Rosie and Gary, after the child runs amok through the house, destroying toys and CDs.

The pivotal slap itself happens about 40 minutes into the episode, and it's fierce and aggressive. Importantly, it's over so quickly viewers have little time to process what has happened and are not prompted to take sides. As Gary is physically restrained from his son's "attacker" and Rosie hysterically shrieks about pressing charges, Hector simply stands in his backyard watching things unravel.

Director Jessica Hobbs provides a beautifully deft touch, and there's not a weak link among the high-profile ensemble cast. It all sets the scene perfectly for what promises to be one of the most compelling series of recent years.

October 03, 2011