Why Partygate makes for surprisingly captivating viewing
The factual drama reminds viewers why the scandal of Partygate shouldn't be forgotten.
In the ever-changing cycle of news that corrals us through life, there are certain scandals and stories that get unfortunately lost by the wayside.
Add to that the never enthusiastic nature with which many of us approach watching anything Covid-19-related and it's safe to say that many people may think to initially give Channel 4's Partygate a miss.
Why would any of us want to be reminded of what was a particularly difficult period of time, after all?
Well, as is the nature and aim of many true crime dramas, sometimes seeing an event unfold on-screen helps drive home a particular message or lesson to be learnt. In the case of Partygate, it's to reinforce to the viewer just why a case like this one shouldn't go by unforgotten.
The drama itself centres on fictional special advisor Grace Greenwood (Georgie Henley) as she finally manages to work where she's always dreamed of: Downing Street.
She's eager to make positive change for the north of England (where she hails from) and is even more eager to work for Johnson, a man she admires and takes at his word.
Yet, in among the Etonians and Oxford graduates of Johnson's team, she finds herself as the odd one out (even though she went to Durham herself) and doesn't get invited along to any of the social events that the close-knit team go to.
So, when Johnson's imposed lockdown eventually hits in 2020, she's swept up in the excitement of getting to finally socialise with her colleagues with garden party drinks and soirées.
She goes on wine jaunts to Westminster Tesco with Annabel D’Acre (Ophelia Lovibond) and parties hard into the night with her team as they drink, dance and get merry - despite the fact that the vast majority of the UK public have been ordered to stay inside their homes.
The factual drama utilises Grace as a vehicle to tell this story, with her regularly breaking the fourth wall to speak matter-of-factly about events, and also, in a future talking heads interview, letting us in on what went on in Downing Street at that time.
But while Grace becomes the moral compass of the tale, it's the general format of Partygate that will deliver the most powerful punch.
Aside from following the fictionalised portrayal of Grace alongside meticulous research of what occurred in Downing Street at the time, Partygate takes its viewers on even more of a rollercoaster with the aide of real-life testimonies.
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You'll undoubtedly be left in a state of delirious, almost laughter-inducing anger at the entitlement of what you're set to see - and to hammer home its messages with even more force, Partygate cuts those scenes in with real stories of the most harrowing kind.
With the help of an on-screen timeline being flashed up at every party, you can see how, on the same day that people couldn't go to mourn their loved ones or physically be next to family at a funeral, there were reported parties going on behind the doors of Downing Street.
It's a drama that doesn't need any fluff from made-up accounts, because once you see those individuals tell their stories for themselves, you're at a loss for why a scandal such as Partygate has continued to be swept under the rug since it was first reported in November 2021.
The one-hour-long drama is chaotic from start to finish, with random dance breaks, footnotes galore and viewer reactions set to fly between red-hot anger and tear-inducing sympathy. But that's the point of it.
It seems ludicrous to watch as a wine fridge is snuck into Downing Street to keep bottles chilled for WTF (Wine Time Fridays), and even more ridiculous to be reminded that the government's former ethics chief brought in a karaoke machine for a particularly raucous evening.
Add to that that there was acknowledgement of the fact that these parties were the "most unsocially distanced gatherings in the UK" at the time and it's easier said than done to keep a cool head when tuning in.
However, again, it's the point of a drama like this. Just when you think that possibly this series could be embellishing, it reminds you it doesn't by way of a direct quote that's been pulled from the Sue Gray report or the Partygate inquiry itself.
We see how wild it all seems that something as clear-as-day as a case like this has resulted in many of those involved going on in their careers unscathed.
As the drama reminds us at the end, current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak paid a total of £50 for breaching Covid lockdown laws by attending a birthday party for Boris Johnson at Downing Street.
While that certainly made headlines at the time in 2022, it takes on a more sour note when it's cut in alongside real people who are revealing they can't pay their £10,000 lockdown fines for things that pale in comparison to multiple parties held on Downing Street grounds.
The performances in this drama are far from groundbreaking, and can (I think) intentionally veer on the side of cringeworthy, but what Partygate does do is remind us why certain aspects of that pandemic time should remain in everyday discourse.
Why, you may ask? Well, seeing it all unfold in one tidy factual drama sure has a way of underlining just how infuriating it was, but also how heartbreaking it has to continue to be for those that won't get back all-important aspects of their lives from sticking to rules that clearly went by ignored by others.
Like this? You might want to try Power. Available now on Lionsgate+.
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