DVD Review: Taboo (Season 1)

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Taboo is both gripping and decadent; a well scripted and acted attempt at an alternative historical drama.

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Taboo is the flagship project of actor Tom Hardy and his father Chips, created, written and produced by the pair with the help of Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight. The first series tells the story of James Delaney – played by Tom Hardy – as he attempts to reclaim his recently inherited lands in America from the scheming East India Company, a conflict which takes place against the backdrop of Georgian London.

Steven Knight is known for creating gritty dramas, and Taboo is no exception. Knight has reclaimed the Georgian period from the clutches of Jane Austen and created a cutthroat drama, much like he has done in his previous work; fans of Peaky Blinders will not be disappointed. Knight works alongside Tom Hardy and renowned historical director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven) as part of the executive production team – which goes some way to explaining both the grit and depth which is a recurrent theme throughout the series.

Tom Hardy stars as the troubled and often unbalanced protagonist of the show, James Delaney. Delaney is recently returned from Africa after hearing of the death of his father, and seeking to claim his inheritance of land in America. However, the lands prove to be of strategic importance to both the Crown and the omnipotent East India Company, both of whom are gripped by the American Revolutionary. Delaney has a fight on his hands. Hardy excels in the role; unsurprising given that the character was created for and by him, and when you consider the actor’s particular talent for playing the violent and slightly unhinged (of which Delaney is both). He particularly excels in portraying Delaney as haunted by the ghost of his mother and by his past experiences working for the East India Company on a slave ship, both of which prove to be a driving force behind his actions throughout the series.

Hardy, however, is not the only draw of the series. Taboo features a wider all-star cast – Jonathon Pryce is both scheming and menacing in his role as Sir Stuart Strange, the Director of the East India Company, whilst Mark Gatiss provides light relief in his role as the gluttonous Prince Regent, a role in which he’s almost unrecognisable thanks to the makeup and costume department.

The series is action packed, violent and at times controversial. The storyline involving Delaney’s incestual relationship with his sister Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) proves to be particularly disturbing. However, it is through this relationship that Hardy is able to portray the sensitive side of his character, usually concealed behind a violent façade. The last episode of the series is spectacular, action packed and decadent, and no expense spared. The whole series is a gripping watch; at times slow to build, the viewer is richly rewarded for sticking with Taboo until its final episodes.

Taboo is without doubt an alternative historical drama. It’s dark, gripping and at times repulsive, though this is exactly what makes it so attractive. The drama tackles themes which others would not have touched; the underworld of Georgian London, poverty, violence, incest, and the repercussions of slavery to name but a few. Through its excellent script and acting, the show is a delight to watch, though at times uncomfortable. Overall, Taboo is a testament to the vision of the team who lie behind its creation. Chips and Tom Hardy have created a must see drama – not to watch would itself prove to be taboo.

Taboo Series 1, produced by Chips Hardy, Tom Hardy and Steven Knight, is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Studiocanal on 29th May 2017.

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