Dark Angel

Series 1 - Episode 1

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Review

There are (clearly unintentional) shades of black comedy in this grim two part dramatisation of the [real] life of Victorian serial killer Mary Ann Cotton. Simply because two parts isn’t enough to accommodate comfortably all of Cotton’s bereavements and, later, murders.

So one after the other, with almost indecent haste, her children die then she starts poisoning her unfortunate spouses with arsenic for their life insurance money.

Downton’s Joanne Froggatt plays Cotton and it’s a thankless role as there’s little time for us to get to know Mary before she’s making deadly tea with a dark look on her face, or furiously coupling with a charming layabout who catches her eye or looking scheming in a shawl.

There’s good support from Alun Armstrong as her pub-owning, God-fearing stepfather and the evocation of a horribly hard life by the sea in 19th century north-east England is suitably vivid.

Summary

Part one of two. Fact-based period crime drama about serial poisoner Mary Ann Cotton, who raised herself socially and financially through adultery, bigamy, fraud and murder. It is 1857 and 24-year-old Mary Ann returns to Seaham, Co Durham after four years away, having eloped to Cornwall with Billy Mowbray. The couple then move to Sunderland, where Mary Ann begins an affair with miner Joe Nattrass and decides she has had enough of Billy, lacing his tea with arsenic powder. Joanne Froggatt stars, with Jonas Armstrong and Alun Armstrong.

Cast & Crew

Mary Ann Joanne Froggatt
Joe Nattrass Jonas Armstrong
Maggie Cotton Laura Morgan
Helen Robinson Emma Fielding
James Robinson Sam Hoare
George Stott Alun Armstrong
William Calcraft Seamus O'Neill
Billy Mowbray Tom Varey
Margaret Stott Penny Layden
Insurance agent George Potts
Seaham minister Paul Bentall
Mr Brownlee Bill Fellows
Sunderland doctor Mike Burnside
Dr John Maling John Hollingworth
George Ward Thomas Howes
Sunderland minister Nigel Cooke
Mr Johnson John Bowler
William Robinson George Kent
Elizabeth Robinson Hayley Walters
James Robinson Jr Alexander McMonigle
Sunderland vicar Michael Culkin
Isabella Mowbray (3 years) Isobel Dobson
Isabella Mowbray (7 years) Isla McMonigle
Director Brian Percival
Producer Jake Lushington
Writer Gwyneth Hughes
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Drama