The BBC’s newest drama is courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and unfortunately, what appears to be an edgy and modern supernatural re-imagining of the aboriginal concept of dream-time is actually just confusing and fairly dull. Set in the near future, Cleverman follows the story of two estranged brothers who seem to be part human, and part ‘hairy’.
The Hairypeople are a species being persecuted by the human population. They are forced together after the younger is granted the mantle of the ‘Cleverman’, supposedly a figure who can unite the species and stop their persecution.
Perhaps for citizens of Australia, who have a working cultural understanding of aboriginal myths and legends, this has the potential to be an engaging reimagining of an important cultural heritage, with the infusion of some of today’s political issues. However, for me, this concept really did not come off well. The show seemed confused. It is allegedly set in the ‘near future’, a fact that is really only evident in the opening scene when a woman is seen reading on what is essentially a slightly snazzier kindle. Not only is this aspect of the programme not really consistent, it is also confused when we see ‘magic’ that would look less out of place on the set of Merlin.
Cleverman just seems to be trying to tackle too much. The treatment of the Hairypeople at first appears to almost be an allegory for apartheid, with the government branding them as dangerous, and banishing them to ‘the zone’, a ghetto of sorts. Then there is a human trafficking aspect, as several Hairypeople are smuggled out of ‘the zone’, followed by evident parallels with illegal immigration and the mistreatment of refugees when their home is raided and the youngest daughter is shot by police. Furthermore, the audience sees a media mogul and a politician make shady deals and socialise at the same society events, as if the programme did not already present enough immorality for its viewers to grapple with.
This programme is full of potential, but is trying to do too many things at once for it to impress. It comes off as confusing, and as a result fairly uninteresting.
Image: Marko Mikkonen