ICYMI: John Aggasild on Marion & Geoff
Stand-up and host of Glasgow's Vision Board night, John Aggasild takes a look at early-noughties hidden gem Marion & Geoff
Marion & Geoff is a sitcom starring Rob Brydon as divorced minicab driver and loving father Keith. The show follows Keith driving around between fares and regularly driving from his home in London to visit his sons who live in Cardiff with his ex-wife Marion and her partner Geoff.
As a stand-up, I love monologues and character studies from The Office to my favourite film of last year, Thunder Road. If you like this stuff too, Marion & Geoff might be up your street.
Set entirely within Keith’s car, he gives his optimistic musings on life and chronicles his divorce to a dashboard camera which serves as a sort of video diary, and definitely as company. Surprisingly, the comedy is not restricted by its singular setting. This is likely down to the realistic dialogue, despite the less-than-realistic situation, and Brydon’s excellent character work.
As is the aim of any TV programme, the creators want you to invest your precious time in the lives of these characters, and with Marion & Geoff’s first series it’s made even easier. Each episode is less than ten minutes and with only one real-life character to focus on, what’s not to love? I watched it in one sitting and believe it to be a masterpiece. However, Series 2 is made up of six 30-minute episodes which puts me off, considering the deliberate structure of the first series.
There is also a one-off special on the Series 2 DVD which takes place at the barbecue described in episode six, The Second Hottest Day, co-starring Steve Coogan and Tracy-Ann Obermann in the titular roles. As tantalising as this prospect of ensemble and drama may seem, I'm not interested in seeing the world beyond Keith’s car and Keith's perspective, because that's where the success of Marion & Geoff lies.
There are fantastic lines throughout but much of the comedy (and tragedy) of the central plot is what is not said. Keith’s view of his marriage and fatherhood through rose-tinted glasses/windscreen is what makes him so endearing. To include any conflicting views would spoil the tone.
Visual and verbal jokes come big and small, subtle and less so. No jokes feel easy or cheap – only those true to Keith’s character and circumstance, as his ramblings pivot between an open book and a man convincing himself that his position is precisely not where he fears.
One could draw comparisons between Marion & Geoff and the popular mockumentary format of the early 21st century – The Office, Parks & Recreation, This Country – but thanks to the courage of its convictions, it feels different. The honest lighting throughout the day, the subtle difference in action between a static and moving car, noises of the gearbox and handbrake all create a very real piece of television about a man who won’t accept his reality. That could make it seem very dark, and in places it is, but not depressingly so. And although Keith is deluded, he's a different beast to Brent or Partridge – you do actually feel sympathy for him.
Driving the show is Rob Brydon’s incredible performance. One character carries the entire weight of the story and its protagonists, as well as diffusing the tension in a split second with masterful delivery. The scene where Keith recounts the barbecue is some of the best acting I have ever seen. Find it and enjoy it.