The boyish fantasies of Sky One’s black comedy Brassic

Written by Joe Gilgun and Danny Brocklehurst, the influence of Trainspotting and Shameless on Brassic is clear – but this working-class farce matures into something of its own.

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“Fuck the middle class, fuck the Guardian, fuck three holidays a year and drinking red wine talking bollocks at dinner parties.” So begins an expletive-laden monologue from Vinnie (Joe Gilgun), delivered in voice-over during a police chase. This is our introduction to the characters of Sky One’s black comedy Brassic: Vinnie (“a bipolar thief who lives in the woods”) and his friends Ash (Aaron Heffernan), Cardi (Tom Hanson) and Dylan (Damien Molony), who reside in the northern town of Hawley. Brassic is written by Gilgun (best known for playing Woody in This is England) and Danny Brocklehurst: though the influence of Trainspotting and Shameless is clear, this working-class farce matures into something of its own.

It follows manically anxious Vinnie as he desperately tries to scrape together some cash and avoid jail, roping the gang into one hare-brained scheme after another. Dylan is increasingly reluctant, thanks to the stabilising influence of his girlfriend, single mother Erin (Michelle Keegan), and yet can’t seem to resist getting drawn into Vinnie’s messes.

 There is an element of boyish fantasy: Vinne’s ramshackle home is an abandoned railway carriage adorned with fairy lights and a wonky wooden porch; he grows weed and plans unlikely capers in an underground hideout complete with trap door and periscope. There are surreptitious poker games in pub back-rooms, unglamorous sex dungeons lurking in ordinary homes, and sewer networks used as secret passageways. But these quirks – and the show’s wacky plots – are grounded in character. Brassic is a wild but empathetic series exploring the aspirations, relationships and severely limited opportunities of eccentric people in an ordinary place. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 30 August 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The long shadow of Hitler