We recently found ourselves descending the many spiral staircases of Sydney’s atmospheric Restaurant Hubert for a preview of the BBC’s gripping new drama ‘Taboo’, which hits Australian TV next week. Replete with built-in theatre, it’s a venue dripping with a kind of Parisian elan that recalls the heady days of Hemingway and co. and an appropriate setting for a show hell-bent on immersing viewers in an oft-overlooked period of history.
‘Taboo’ is Tom Hardy in cinematic form – gritty, brooding and slightly off the wall. He plays James Delaney, a man presumed dead, who appears back in London in 1814 for the funeral of his father.
With nothing in the will save a piece of disputed North American land, Delaney sets out to investigate the death of his father. As the War of 1812 draws to a close, and knowing the value of the land to both Britain and the United States, he refutes the offer of the all-powerful East India Company in order to reclaim his inheritance.
Like most modern premium dramas, ‘Taboo’ throws you into the deep end of a dark, murky London and leaves you to fend for yourself, as it drip-feeds details of Delaney’s dark and sordid past. The show is a genuine family affair – based on a story by Hardy and his father Edward “Chips” Hardy – and written by Steven Knight, who has previously teamed up with Hardy on ‘Locke’ and ‘Peaky Blinders’.
It’s also packed to the brim with ‘Game of Thrones’ alumni, including Jonathan Pryce as the Chairman of the East India Company, and Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie), who plays James’ half-sister – and love interest – Zilpha.
Yet Hardy is undoubtedly the star of the show and eminently watchable as the slightly-deranged Delaney. There are few actors who can bring his kind of magnetic menace to the screen and here it’s perfectly utilised as he takes on enemies real and imagined. Like most Hollywood actors who have made a jump back into television, Hardy has picked his material carefully, and ‘Taboo’ promises to reward the viewer with engrossing, original spectacle.
‘Taboo’ premieres this Monday 17 July at 9:30pm on BBC First.