What makes a woman stand by her husband when he is accused of rape? This is the question posited by Channel 4’s dark new drama, National Treasure, which portrays a fictional historic sex abuse investigation.
Robbie Coltrane delivers an impressive performance as Paul Finchley, a household name and half of an ageing comedy double act. The opening scene sees Finchley on his way to present his comedy partner, Karl Jenkins (Tim McInnerny), with a lifetime achievement award.
Finchley is supported by his long-suffering wife, brilliantly represented by Julie Walters, to whom he has been regularly unfaithful. However, it is a knock on the door on an ordinary morning that changes their lives forever. Facing an accusation of rape from 20 years ago, Finchley’s relationship with his wife will never be the same again.
Writer Jack Thorne draws on recent events in the news that shocked and disturbed the nation, with many echoes of Operation Yewtree to be heard: “They think I’m Jimmy Saville”, Finchley mutters to himself.
The drama focuses largely on the effect the investigation has on Finchley’s family, not only on his wife but also on his already troubled daughter. Residing in a halfway house due to addiction issues, we soon see Finchley’s daughter questioning her father’s innocence, commenting, “you haven’t even told me it’s bullshit”.
In a culture where ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is widely accepted, National Treasure explores how although publicising these cases has the potential to destroy a possibly innocent person’s life, it also allows more victims to come forward.
Thorne took a considerable risk in dramatising such controversial subject matter. However, it has been a risk worth taking; the result being a skilfully created drama which brings forward an important story, one that is frighteningly real.
Image: Karen Neoh @ Flickr