Award-winning perfection in portrayal of serial killer

Last updated 07:51 21/01/2013
Apt adult

Chilling drama:Dominic West as serial killer Fred West in Appropriate Adult.

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I can't remember when I last saw something quite as repellent as TV One's Sunday night two-part drama Appropriate Adult.

Strangely enough, this is a compliment: this drama managed to get to the core of the most appalling series of murders ever and to present one of the murderers as strangely human.

It was a clever idea to tell the story of serial killer Fred West through the eyes of Janet Leach, the woman who had been asked to act as an appropriate adult for West, deemed to be perhaps intellectually incapable of understanding the procedures of a trial. As is often the case, a strange and somewhat co-dependent bond formed between the two of them.

Dominic West's portrayal of (namesake) Fred West was masterful, and all the more shocking because Dominic West learnt his part by listening to tapes of Fred in custody and just copying him.

Thus he managed to get that horrifying combination of normal, jokey bloke and sadistic murderer to sound almost everyday.

Listening to Fred West describing the murder, dismembering and burying of his own daughter much as if he was describing how to set up a compost bin was unsettling in the extreme.

Emily Watson, as Janet Leach, and Dominic West both won Bafta awards last year and it wasn't hard to see why.

Dominic West was so convincing as Fred and looked so like him physically that Leach, used as a consultant in the making of the drama, found it incredibly difficult to be on set with him.

Watson played Leach - kind, naive, decent, sensible yet vulnerable - to perfection.

Indeed her part of the story was as gripping as Fred's. He had abused and used so many people who passed through his life and now Leach was a victim too.

Even handcuffed to a policeman, Fred was able to exert considerable charisma.

She was used by the police to gain Fred's confidence, then she was cast aside as if she'd simply spent her day being a dinner lady.

Given the number of people who went missing who had been involved with Fred over the years, it seemed to take a disturbingly long time for anyone to notice.

He so nearly got away with it.

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- The Dominion Post


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