Appropriate Adult: Prurient or insightful?

It’s a tricky one, portraying serial killers in a TV drama. Especially on a channel which has ad breaks every five minutes. Wrecks the rhythm of the writing, the tension and the story arc with shite trivia and massively annoying jingles. I did a stupid thing and watched Appropriate Adult during a middle-of-the-night bout of insomnia, which made it all the more freaky.

But the point is, life isn’t simple. Villains do not look like Dick Dastardly, and serial murderers may have got away with murder for so long in part because they can be charming and funny. And they don’t look like Steve Buscemi. At times in this drama, and this may seem an odd thing to say, there was humour, of a very dark nature. Plus ordinary, everyday stuff, which made it all the more difficult to stomach.

Do I feel sorry for families of the victims, who may find it hugely difficult to be reminded of Fred West’s actions? Yes, of course. It must be grindingly grim. But to be fair, Appropriate Adult isn’t a dramatisation of the murders. Instead, it shows the unfolding of a series of police interviews, attended by the rooky ‘appropriate adult’ Janet Leach, (played very well by Emily Watson), where Fred West admits to his crimes and hooks Leach in, by sharing titbits of information with her, knowing she is bound by confidentiality and not in a position to pass them on.  

I was appalled that it appeared that Janet Leach didn’t receive support and counselling during, and after, her hugely stressful ordeal as a volunteer, which was enduring a kind of hell, albeit one she appears to have found compelling. It never seemed clear why Fred West was eligible for having an ‘appropriate adult’ present anyway, since more commonly, as I understand it, it’s a role supporting children or people with learning disabilities.

The unfolding story makes for incredibly uncomfortable viewing, of course. Having an attractive actor like Dominic West playing Fred West makes it even more difficult to cope with. Appropriate Adult was filmed using a reconstruction of their house and garden, now demolished. At one point we see two West teenagers, apparently left in the house after their parents were arrested, without any adult support. It was very unsettling. Even more so, the scenes with the foul-mouthed co-murderer, West’s wife, Rosemary, played with chilling brilliance by Monica Dolan.

I would recommend watching this for those that can bear it, but during daylight hours, and ideally recorded so you can skip the ads.

Posted by Inkface


Filed under Drama

2 responses to “Appropriate Adult: Prurient or insightful?

  1. Michael Cousins

    From what I have read (recently) it was the police trying to make sure that the case could not be thrown out on a technicality. Appropriate Adults (what a strange name) are there to assist those with learning disabilites and I think Fred West fell into that category. He has been described as ‘almost’ illiterate.

    However it also seems, from the television programme that the police LSO exploited Janet Leach’s relationship with Fred West to get information from him.He wouldn’t speak to anyone but Janet about the murders.

    I have only seen part one, but I imagine the closing scene was a ploy to get more information from Fred West due to the fact he would only talk to Janet Leach about the details. They have only spoken about 8 or 9 bodies so far, there are more to come.

    It is a very good drama though and is taken from the transcripts of what was said so is more factual than many programmes of it’s type.

    I am glad it does not go into detail about the killings themselves.

  2. inkface

    Thank you for that Michael, it was interesting and certainly makes sense.