Could Norfolk’s Olivia Colman land more awards for her new TV drama? 

Olivia Colman in Landscapers

Olivia Colman as Susan Edwards in Landscapers - Credit: ©Sky UK Ltd / HBO / Sister

Norfolk lass Olivia Colman’s latest outing on the telly box is anything but ordinary.  

With Will Sharpe (who directed Colman in Channel 4’s Flowers) at the helm, every aspect of Landscapers plays on the unusualness of the story, and the people within it. There’s a strange, but wonderful quality to the production – that I think will land a few awards. 

A limited series of just four, perfectly paced episodes, Landscapers (streaming now on Sky and Now TV) tells the odd-but-true tale of Chris (David Thewlis) and Susan (Colman) Edwards, who were imprisoned for 25 years apiece in 2014 for the double murder of Susan’s parents Patricia and William Wycherley – each shot twice in the chest. The Mansfield Murders. 

Absolutely everything about the show feels fresh, with Thewlis saying it’s the most magical project he’s worked on in years. 

And magical it is. Which sounds bizarre. We are, after all, dealing with death. But the making of Landscapers is unique. It’s as though the personalities and desires of the central characters take on their own lifeform, shaping the very fabric of the filming, the score, the shots. 

Olivia Colman and David Thewlis as Susan and Chris Edwards, about to surrender to British police

Olivia Colman and David Thewlis as Susan and Chris Edwards, about to surrender to British police - Credit: ©Sky UK Ltd / HBO / Sister

Much like Sky’s recent drama, Scenes from a Marriage (from The Affair creator Hagai Levi), Landscapers keeps viewers on their toes, blending pre and post production shots with on-screen drama and snippets of real footage. Perhaps Sharpe’s prods through the many dream-like sequences, that this is real. A real story. Real people.  

The director sets out his stall from the very first black and white scene, in which the first word “action” sees a young lawyer run across a city centre in the rain, talking to a neurotic Susan Edwards, desperate to help her husband. 

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This is a different woman to the one we meet in the next shot, winding the clock back to France, where Susan whiles away her hours buying expensive film memorabilia she can’t afford, wistfully, and with a childlike naivety, strolling artisan markets, and generally enjoying life.  

In stark difference, Chris is a man drowning in circumstance. They can’t afford the 20 Euro poster she’s just bought (it was actually 150) he shouts, over a meagre supper of....sandwich. And he can’t get a job – it turns out you really do need to know the lingo if you want to work abroad. 

David Thewlis as Chis Edwards in Landscapers

Chris (David Thewlis) cracks under the pressure - Credit: ©Sky UK Ltd / HBO / Sister

Something within Chris appears to break in front of our very eyes and, as he kicks a phone booth in frustration, like a caged beast, willing to be unleashed, he delivers a very unusual message to his stepmother. That he’s got a bit of a mess to clear up. And there may be something of interest to the police in Susan’s parents’ garden. Something that’s been buried there for 15 years. 

Naturally this sets off mother dearest’s spidey senses. She’s straight on the blower to the cops, who are loathed to believe the ‘crackpot’ therapist’s theories at first. 

But when a neighbour admits Mr and Mrs Wycherley seemed to leave in a hurry back in 1998. And that Chris was seen in the back yard, knee-deep digging a hole...well, it seems they’re on to something. 

Naturally Susan is peeved Chris has burst their ‘love bubble’ living on the run. But after a few, frankly odd, email exchanges with police in the UK, the couple agree to return to clear their good names – if the cops are willing to pay their train fare of course. 

With two bodies uncovered, the Edwards’ are detained, and episodes two and three are a game of cat and mouse for the police (played superbly by Samuel Anderson, Daniel Rigby and Kate O Flynn), who play the couple off against one another to get the information they need. 

David Thewlis in Landscapers

David Thewlis is questioned as Chris Edwards in Landscapers - Credit: ©Sky UK Ltd / HBO / Sister

Susan claims on that hot May Bank Holiday, her drunken mother shot her abusive dad, turning the gun on her daughter, revealing she knew he’d been assaulting Susan in her youth, blaming her for her torrid marriage. 

In a panic, Susan says she grabbed the gun for protection, only firing when she felt attacked by her mother’s stinging, heart-wrenching confessions. 

Yep. That doesn’t sit well with the detectives, who’ve discovered that while Susan hates guns, Chris used to have a licence and is adept with a weapon. That it would have been impossible for Chris to smell nothing, arriving at the crime scene a week later. And that the bodies could not have been stiff, as the couple claimed, after six days. 

Nothing adds up. Especially the couple’s mounting debt, spent largely on fostering ‘fragile’ Susan’s addiction to buying film paraphernalia, some at astronomical prices – and the fact she set up a bank account the very day after she says her parents died. Pretty suss. 

David Thewlis as Chris Edwards in Landscapers

David Thewlis as Chris Edwards in Landscapers - Credit: ©Sky UK Ltd / HBO / Sister

Sharpe throws everything but the kitchen sink at Landscapers. Playful shots and angles with a touch of Wes Anderson. Narratives delivered in flashback with current players walking through past scenes. To-camera, third-wall-breaking delivery. Cinematic sequences, from French film noir, to black and white Hollywood romance, to Westerns. In fact, much of the final episode has a Western feel – Chris and Susan bounding along on a waggon laden with bodies. The police pontificating on a stoop in Stetsons. And the courtroom transforming into an old-fashioned showdown – all set to a diverse original soundtrack from Sharpe’s brother and long-time collaborator Arthur. 

I cannot fault this. If you can get over the bizarreness of it all, it’s a wild ride. 



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