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BBC1’s spooky drama Requiem is addictive – but it’s Matilda’s chunky fringe that really has me mesmerised

This is a supernatural drama with fringe benefits, says Paul Jones
By Paul Jones

Contains spoilers for episode one

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Requiem is the water-cooler Sunday-night drama that never was – mostly because the BBC decided to show it on Fridays and make the whole series available immediately on iPlayer.

Not that I’m complaining, I’ve ploughed through all six episodes in one lazy Sunday. It’s an atmospheric and at times properly creepy tale about a young woman (and cellist), Matilda Gray, whose mother’s brutal suicide (brought on – let’s not beat around the bush here – by ghosts) draws her into the 23-year-old case of an abducted child and quickly leads to her taking up residence in a big old spooky house.

It’s as satisfyingly full of classic supernatural tropes as it sounds, addictive, and has a great cast (Joel Fry, Brendan Coyle, Joanna Scanlan, Tara Fitzgerald, Clare Calbraith) – led by Lydia Wilson and her chunkily chopped, immovable platinum fringe.

I find the fringe utterly mesmeric.

Mostly I marvel at how perfectly straight it’s cut, and what a pleasingly thick slab of hair it is. Occasionally, I notice that certain areas could do with the tiniest of trims and wonder how much work the make-up department had to do on it before each new day of filming. I also consider, from the point of view of dramatic realism, whether they should have been maintaining it quite so assiduously given that, as far as we know, Matilda has not been to the hairdressers for some time. Maybe she is trimming it herself, I think, obsessively snipping with a pair of nail scissors each morning in front of the mirror.

But then I remember, of course, that all the mirrors in the house have been smashed by the former owner in an effort to prevent the materialisation of evil angel spirits summoned from an ethereal plane.

Quentin Tarantino once said that the suits worn by Mr White and co in Reservoir Dogs are their “armour”, and as events start to spin out of their control so the suits become increasingly dishevelled.

Matilda’s fringe is much more resilient than the Reservoir Dogs’ suits but it’s still worth noting that in occasional moments of particular stress – prior to her mum’s suicide or in the aftermath of a car crash – it collapses into deconstructed strands of wispy hair to reflect her state of mind.

There is probably an undergraduate dissertation in the use of hair in communicating emotions on screen – or at least a joke about Requiem having fringe benefits – but to be honest if I do write anything else about this series it will probably focus on Matilda's amazing pale blue coat and how she manages to get all that blood out between episodes four and five.

I'm happy to suspend my disbelief when it comes to evil angel ghost spirits but the idea that you could sponge that much gore out of a cashmere-wool blend is just a bit too far-fetched.

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Requiem is on Fridays at 9pm on BBC1 and the full six-part series is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer

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