“Are you sure that you’re an alcoholic? [You] were always such fun!” It’s sentiments like this that six months-sober Shiv Sheridan (Roisin Gallagher) is met with upon her arrival in Dublin. Originally back in her hometown for her grandmother’s funeral, it soon becomes apparent there is more to her sudden departure from London, where she spent the past years struggling to succeed as an artist. Neither environment is making it particularly easy for the young woman to stay “dry”. While in London her flatmate’s relentless party behaviour hindered progress, in Dublin her family’s collective dysfunction not only triggers Shiv’s urge to turn to the bottle as a coping mechanism, but the origins of said behaviour also become painfully obvious.
It is difficult to imagine an eclectic television series like The Dry without the groundwork laid by Fleabag. While the writing by Irish playwright Nancy Harris has its own tempo and spirit, there are similarities between the two shows: in the characterisations of the “hot mess” main character, the complex family dynamic and the comedic tone that pervades the tragedy in their respective lives. In a congenially cynical and rather European approach, director Paddy Breathnach tackles the traumas that only grow with each failure to address them, and finds heart as well as humour in each character’s predicament. In an episode in which Shiv calls for a family meeting to address unspoken issues that permeate the air, her mother asks pointedly, “What are we, Americans?”
The incomprehension of almost every single character to Shiv defining the root of her problems as alcoholism, when their own destructive behaviours are strikingly similar to hers, is both frustrating and amusing for an audience to watch. In a production made up of an entirely accomplished cast, Ciarán Hinds and Pom Boyd, who star as Shiv’s parents, prove to be true scene stealers. Their wry and dry delivery is always spot on and their comedic timing excellent.
In eight 25-minute episodes that are tightly packed with drama, there is an occasional side storyline that feels rushed as it concludes faster than expected and, as with any humorous format, naturally there are some jokes that work better than others – but The Dry is nonetheless a wholly entertaining addition to British television.
The Dry is released on BritBox on 5th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Dry here: