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I TALK The Widower

We may only be in March, but Reece Shearsmith is having one hell of a year so far. Off the back of a very successful and well received BBC Two dark comedy, Inside No. 9, he is about to appear in ITV drama Chasing Shadows alongside Noel Clarke, but before that he'll star in The Widower alongside the brilliant Sheridan Smith.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you will have seen the endless trailers going out on ITV, and deservedly so as I think The Widower is perhaps one of my favourite dramas so far this year. "This is a true story. Some scenes and characters have been created for dramatic purposes." appears on screen before each of the three episodes to remind us that The Widower, written by award-winning writer Jeff Pope (Philomena), is based on a true story.


The Widower is based on the crimes of convicted murderer Malcolm Webster, who in 2011 was jailed for a minimum of 30 years for the murder of his first wife in 1994, and the attempted murder of his second wife in 1999.


The first episode takes place in Aberdeen, Scotland, September 1993, and we join Malcom Webster and Claire Morris on their special day - their wedding.


Malcom Webster played superbly by Reece Shearsmith toasts to his new wife Claire who he says has made him "The happiest man alive!". Claire, played brilliantly by Sheridan Smith is quick to pay back the favour and tells her girlfriends that "He makes me feel so special. You know my luck with boyfriends, but I've finally found the one.


So what seemingly starts off as a fairytale wedding turns into something much darker, much creepier and a lot more thrilling in a relatively short space of time. Three months to be precise, which is where the drama really begins.

You only have to see the way in which Malcolm reacts to Claire opening his letters and realising the debt he's in, to realise that The Widower really is one of those dramas that will have you on the edge of your seats.


So how exactly does he react? Well, he systematically drugs Claire to keep her under control, however when Claire books a Doctor's appointment Malcolm has to take matters into his own hands. And by that I mean stage a car accident in which she is killed.


It's not long (three years) before Malcolm remarries, this time to a lady called Felicity who he meets whilst living his new life in Auckland, New Zealand, escaping justice and cashing in on a £200,000 life insurance policy.


Halfway through the first episode The same scenes which we saw at the start of the episode are all back, Malcolm saying how Felicity has 'saved him' and Felicity telling her girlfriends how perfect he is. Of course, this doesn't last very long and it's not long before Felicity begins to feel unwell. However the announcement that she's pregnant stops Malcolm in his tracks... however not for long.


The first episode ends five years after Claire's death, as Malcolm and Felicity, along with a baby, start looking at properties. With this comes the subject of money and when Malcolm is made to be accountable for his finances by wife Felicity he's soon back to his old ways.

Reece Shearsmith is a name you may associate more with black comedy (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville, Inside No 9), than serious drama, but actually it's not until you see Reece Shearsmith in The Widower, that you realise what a truly fantastic actor he really is. The way he portrays Malcolm Webster in The Widower will undoubtedly leave chills down your spine and this only increases the more the series goes on.


Similarly, Sheridan Smith is known for being able to switch between comedy and drama really well and in doing so has become one of the nations most-loved actresses.

The Widower is no exception and Sheridan portrays the role of Malcolm's first wide Claire Morris extremely well and the only downside is that she's not in the series long enough before Malcolm decides to kill her.


The second episode sees Malcolm attempt to kill his second wife Felicity, by staging another fatal car accident, however her father Brian grows ever more suspicious of Malcolm and gets to her daughter before Malcolm can.


Then five years later Malcolm sets his sights on another lady, the rather naive Simone (played by Archie Panjabi), and works his charm on her. And the final episode sees their relationship move at a rapid pace as Simone and Malcolm plan a transatlantic trip.


What can go wrong? Will Simone find out about Malcolm's past? Well that would be telling, but one thing's for sure, this is one drama that you do not want to miss. It's gripping, it's thrilling, brilliantly written and acted and it's worth reminding yourself when watching The Widower, how it is based on a true story. A story which I myself knew very little, if anything about but have since gone on to read all about the real Malcolm Webster.


The Widower airs Mondays at 9pm on ITV

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