Review: Grayson Perry's Full English is a fun odyssey which finds meaning in our eccentricity
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The artist was on a journey round the country in an effort to find the meaning of Englishness. Is it “fantasy keeping us stuck in the past”?
On the evidence of this first episode, it seems it probably is. Druids, rich bohemians and anti-immigrant vigilantes alike seemed to glory in a kind of sun-dappled, bucolic vision of Englishness that hasn’t been seen since 1938.
But Perry wasn’t having that. With football fans on tour and right-to-access protesters, he finds a more modern take on Englishness, one that still harks to the past, but has a way of looking forward that some of the other people featured – particularly one-man Border Force Jeremy – seem incapable of.
The most telling sequence is a trip to Somerset to meet interior designer and rock star wife Pearl Lowe in her 11-bedroom Cotswold stone home. Perry acutely nails he moneyed bohemianism, the sort of thing arty types have been doing for decades while looking down their noses at actual country-ness. He even has Divine Comedy’s satirical A Lady of a Certain Age playing underneath it.
There are contrivances – he’s being chauffured round the country by ‘white van man’ Kirk – but Perry is an engaging and inquisitive interviewer, nosing around people’s lives.
And that’s something that – conditioned by years of ‘knowing our place’ – English people are reluctant to do. If we want to come to terms with ourselves, it’s something we need to be better at.
I had hopes for The Catch (Channel 5, Weds, 9pm), which seemed to buck the trend of most C5 dramas – there’s only one episode a week, for a start, which must mean they were confident viewers would be hooked into coming back for more. Unfortunately, it’s another by the numbers thriller, with little to recommend it.
SAS: Who Dares Wins (Channel 4, Mon, 9pm) is always great if you enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing people suffer while you sit on the sofa stuffing a custard cream in your mouth. One of the most amusing things is brash American instructor Rudy Reyes, who seems to think he’s starring in Apocalypse Now.