There’s more prison drama in the Screw

Thursday:Screw;(Channel 4, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 5:00 pm
Toby and Rose
Toby and Rose

Prison life has been the inspiration for many small-screen drama hits – Prison Break, Orange Is the New Black, Wentworth, Oz, Prisoner and Time, to name a few.

And life behind bars was of course the subject of one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, Ronnie Barker’s Porridge, along with its movie spin-off Doing Time.

Screw, penned by the Bafta-nominated writer Rob Williams, who helped bring Killing Eve to our screens, is the latest TV hit to chronicle prison life.

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However, unlike many of the shows above, the dark comedy drama promises to show it as you’ve never seen it before – through the embattled and inspiring characters who work there.

If you have missed the first two episodes, they are available to stream on All4, but for the uninitiated, here’s what Screw is about:

Set in C Wing in the busy Long Marsh men’s prison, it follows Leigh (Nina Sosanya), head of a group of officers who has devoted her entire adult life to this prison and its population. Leigh keeps her inmates in line and has the officers’ backs when they need it.

Into the pressure cooker of Long Marsh enters Rose (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), a 21-year-old trainee. It’s a baptism of fire even for this street-smart young woman as she joins fellow screws Ali (Faraz Ayub), Gary (Stephen Wight), Don (Ron Donachie), and Jackie (Laura Checkley).

Tonight, it becomes clear that whatever secret Leigh is hiding lies within the forged information on her birth certificate. But will she cross the line between officer and criminal, and hand it over to Governor Ray (Karan Gill)?

Sosanya, who recently appeared in His Dark Materials and Little Birds, explains more about her complex character: “She absolutely lives for her job, which ordinarily makes my heart sink when you hear that in a character breakdown. She utterly believes that she can and should be trying to make a difference within a system that she sees as broken.

“She runs her wing like the captain of a ship, according to her own beliefs and rules, and doesn’t particularly trust anybody else to do the job as well as well as she can. She finds it easier to relate to the prisoners than the staff members, and this causes incidents.”

With some of the wing’s residents trying dangerous new ways to get high, the third episode also features a prisoner story exploring the radicalisation of young mind Connor Joyce (Jack McMullen).

This leads Ali to remind Leigh how big a difference she and her team can make to the lives of the inmates – and just how badly she needs to stay on C Wing. Also tonight, Rose follows through on a mission that poses a danger to both her and her fellow officers. And an encounter with inmate Louis Costa (Ben Tavassoli) leaves her trapped in a potentially deadly double bind.

“I don’t think prison is what she’s expecting,” says Derry Girls star O’Donnell, who plays Rose.

“I don’t think she’s intimidated by it either, but she builds different relationships with different people, including some people she never would really speak to on the outside – people who remind her of home.

“There are a lot of interesting dynamics within the prison that allow her to open up a little and express herself in different ways.”

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