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Eureka Street (1999)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Eureka Street (1999)
Euphoria Films for BBC2, 13/9-4/10/1999
4 x 60 min episodes, colour
DirectorAdrian Shergold
AdaptationDonna Franceschild
Original NovelRobert McLiam Wilson
PhotographyDaf Hobson
EditorJohn Stothart
MusicMartin Phipps

Cast: Vincent Regan (Jake); Mark Benton (Chuckie); Elisabeth Röhm (Max); Dervla Kirwan (Aoirghe); Marie Jones (Peggy); Sorcha Cusack (Caroline)

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Belfast, mid-1990s. As the city enters a ceasefire period, two friends, Catholic Jake and Protestant Chuckie, try to live their lives despite the tensions around them.

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Donna Franceshild's award-winning adaptation of Robert McLiam Wilson's 1996 novel explores the nature of living in contemporary Belfast before and after the latest ceasefires. Following the fortunes of two best friends, reformed convict Jake Jackson and unemployed schemer Chuckie Lurgan, director Adrian Shergold brings an extremely intimate, highly visceral approach which adds new layers to McLiam Wilson's story, assisted by intense performances from Vincent Regan and Mark Benton, Daffyd Hobson's restless camerawork and Martin Phipps' music. Central aspects of the novel are retained, including its first person perspective, conveyed through Jake's compassionate voice-over, and the structure of events.

The drama reflects on personal as well as public perceptions of an increasingly media-mythologised Belfast, making use of devices such as the unexplained acronym 'OTG' painted all over the city as enigmatic symbols of the conflict's unifying absurdity. Drawing on the notion of Belfast as a place belonging to no-one and everyone at the same time, the story of Catholic Jake and Protestant Chuckie takes on the shape of an urban fable - albeit one firmly rooted in often violent reality - with the ordinary life frequently becoming extraordinary. The political and social issues surrounding Belfast are not merely reported, but presented to us as lived moments and experiences through the eyes of the main protagonists - an emotive approach which poignantly underlines the fragility of life in the aftermath of war.

Filmed on location in Belfast, Eureka Street combines social realism with a surreal view of the city as both a dystopian suburbia and a raw, poetic landscape. These contrasting perspectives are essential to the novel's treatment of the city and are shown through lingering images of harbour lights, graffiti-covered buildings and dark, worn interiors. Shergold creates a realm in which the range of romantic, tragic, anarchic and violent dimensions of the story can be played out urgently and authentically.

Phipps' eclectic score, blending Gaelic folk-influenced string sections with urban beats, sweeping crescendos and synthesised waves of creeping rhythms, accentuates the emotional impact of scenes such as the after-effects of a sudden bombing, Jake's lonely unfolding of a letter from his ex-girlfriend revealing only the word 'Forgive' (we later learn she had aborted their baby) and the descent of an Argos van down the narrow Eureka Street overladen with gifts from the suddenly solvent Chuckie to his mother.

Davina Quinlaven

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Video Clips
1. Chuckie (2:23)
2. Matt and Marmie (4:01)
3. Chuckie's business plan (4:13)
Complete first episode (54:17)
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