Tom (Keith Barron) is eking out a living as a cab driver in the Midlands town of Woodsleigh Abbots. It’s something of a comedown for a skilled man, but since all the traditional trades have disappeared he has little choice. Life with his wife Liz (Annette Crosbie) is settled but rather humdrum.
However, when he meets Kathy (Maggie O’Neill) everything changes. Kathy, half his age, is a newlywed who has recently moved to the area. Having had an argument with her husband, Martin (Reece Dinsdale), she scrambles into Tom’s cab in a highly distressed state. He initially treats her with fatherly concern, but over time this transforms into a dangerous passion which begins to eat away at him ….
Originally broadcast in 1989, Tony Marchant’s three part drama stands as a document of the dying days of the Thatcher era. Previously an industrial town, the arrival of Chinese computer firm InfoCo has transformed Woodsleigh Abbots, bringing in an influx of upwardly mobile white collar workers like Martin.
Martin and his friends are the winners at present leaving Tom, having seen the industry he spent his life working in evaporate, very much on the debit side of the ledger. As for Liz, she’s embraced InfoCo and enjoys working in their canteen, even if the rank and file staff members – such as Martin – treat her with indifference or mild contempt.
The company offers nothing for Tom though, so armed with his favourite Dusty Springfield cassette he’s chosen the job of cabbie. But the recent regeneration has transformed the town to such an extent that he sometimes struggles to find his way. The irony in this is quite clear.
The contrast between Martin and Kathy, with their badminton and dinner parties, and the humbler pleasures of Tom and Liz is marked. Clearly Martin and Kathy are on their way up whilst Tom feels that he’s being left behind. His bitterness at the way that technological progress has halted his career, allied to his suspicion about the ever-encroaching InfoCo, positions him as a skilled man who has come to realise that his skills are no longer needed.
Keith Barron was one of those actors who could convey a whole range of emotions with just a single look. There’s an excellent example at the beginning of the first episode as Tom drops a couple (older man, younger woman) off at a motel. The waves of disapproval emanating from Tom (the man’s old enough to be the girl’s father for goodness sake) is palpable. But that was before he’d met Kathy of course ..
The clash of opposites is one of the things which makes Take Me Home so compelling. Tom and Kathy have little in common – the age gap is just one example whilst their divergent musical tastes (he favours Dusty whilst she loves Deacon Blue) is another.
Reece Dinsdale has a difficult role to play since Martin, initially at least, is portrayed as a wholly unlikeable type. Forcing Kathy to have an abortion (telling her that he wouldn’t be able to love their child and would also end up hating her) sets the tone. As befits a computer operator (or at least the 1980’s vision of one) Martin is coldly logical. They can’t afford a baby at the moment, so the “mistake” has to be dealt with.
The relationship between Tom and Kathy is a slow burn. But once they do connect, everything happens in a rush. Subtitled “a love story” in the Radio Times, it’s probably best not to expect a happy ending – it’s plain that when the affair is revealed the fallout will be dramatic.
It’s hard to fault any of the main performers. Barron is perfect as the essentially decent, but utterly conflicted Tom (a man unable to tear himself away from Kathy, even though he’s well aware that he’s destroying his marriage). Crosbie’s slowly dawning comprehension that something is badly wrong is also skilfully played.
O’Neill has to tread a difficult path, but she ensures that Kathy is more than simply an attractive piece of totty (or a helpless victim of either of the men in her life). And although Martin is initially portrayed in a deeply unsympathetic light, as time goes on the script (and Dinsdale) teases out his damaged, fragile side.
By the final episode the truth is out and events spiral further and further out of control before some sort of compromise is reached (although it’s debatable who the winners and losers are). Barron and Crosbie share several pulsating scenes early in the episode. Crosbie is never better than here – displaying a mix of emotions (denial, anger, forgiveness) in quick succession. The sight of a glammed-up Liz (maybe partly done to genuinely tempt Tom, but mainly to taunt him) is a haunting and faintly disturbing one.
Uncompromising and skilfully acted, Take Me Home still has considerable impact, nearly thirty years down the line. Recommended.
Comprising three episodes each of approximately sixty minutes duration, Take Me Home comes on a single disc. There are no special features but – as per all BBC titles – it’s subtitled. The picture quality is fine (albeit a little grainy) with no noticeable issues.
Take Me Home is available now from Simply Media. It can be ordered directly from Simply here (quoting ARCHIVE10 will apply a 10% discount).