ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe is premiering this week, so get ready for an exploration of one of the most shocking cases of deception in recent British history.
If the recent TV offerings are anything to go by, deception, fraud and being duped are all themes that we can’t get enough of. Pair those plotlines with a very real-life case that got the world talking and we’re in for a sure-fire hit of a series, we say.
Apple TV+’s WeCrashed, Disney+’s The Dropout and brand new Wondery podcast Scamfluencers are all just recent examples of content that we can’t stop watching/listening to.
That’s why we’re brimming with excitement for ITV’s latest drama offering. The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe is coming to our screens this Easter Sunday (17 April) and we just know it’s going to be the kind of series that’s going to get everyone talking when it airs.
The four-part drama tells the real-life story of Anne and John Darwin who deceived the world – and their family – into thinking that John was dead after a tragic canoeing accident in 2002.
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It’s the case that was all over the news channels at the time and after a well-known 2006 photo of the cheery couple in a Panama real estate office was eventually discovered, the pair’s secret was exposed.
The case – while it’s been the focus of podcasts and documentaries already – is getting the ITV treatment with the help of Bafta award-winning director Richard Laxton (Honour, Mrs Wilson) and screenwriter Chris Lang (Unforgotten).
Leading the cast as the enigmatic couple are Monica Dolan (Black Mirror, A Very English Scandal) and Eddie Marsan (Ridley Road, Ray Donovan). Marsan will be starring as John, who faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy.
The drama, though, will focus on the case more from the perspective of Anne (Dolan), who struggled with keeping the secret for all those years. It will focus on how she “became complicit in her husband’s deception as she started to convince the world, their family and friends, the police and insurance companies, that he had gone missing in 2002 whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew in Cleveland, where the couple owned two large houses with panoramic views of the sea,” according to the synopsis.
It goes on: “The deception was to take its toll on Anne who lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne. Devastated by the loss of their father, neither son had an inkling their parents were capable of such treachery.
“Anne and John Darwin eventually decided to leave Seaton Carew and move to Panama City to start a new life together before their secret was exposed by the discovery of an infamous photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006.
“At her trial Anne Darwin pleaded not guilty, arguing that she had been coerced into the plot by her husband, but the jury didn’t believe her. She and her husband were both jailed for more than six years.”
And if that’s not enough to get you equal parts excited and confused for the series, perhaps the new trailer will. Watch it for yourself here:
Speaking of the upcoming drama to ITV, writer Lang commented:
“I am beyond delighted to be working with two of the finest actors of their generation. I have admired them both from afar for many years (not in a creepy way though) and cannot wait to see them bring Anne and John Darwin to life.”
Also speaking to RadioTimes about the drama, he discussed how he thinks the public will react to seeing the case dramatised. When asked if he thinks it will strike a chord with viewers, he said: “I hope so. I’m sure many of us have dreamt up extraordinary solutions to our problems and then stepped back from the precipice. The only difference between us and the Darwins is that they jumped.”
He explained: “In many ways, John Darwin is a relatively easy character to understand (his is the story of a narcissist) but Anne is much more complex, so to try to understand how a mother could have committed such a heinous crime, I decided to place her at the centre of the piece, and then create a device which allowed us to hear her inner monologue, her actual thought processes.”
The drama doesn’t shy away from Anne’s involvement and when asked about choosing not to downplay her role in the upcoming portrayal, he said: “We owed it to the sons, the real victims of John and Anne’s crimes, to be truthful.
“I can’t imagine a greater betrayal than a mum telling you your dad is dead when she knows he is actually still alive. Pretending to be grieving for five years, allowing them to grieve for five years – what would possess a mother to do that? It seems unthinkable to any parent.”
The ITV drama is set to be an intriguing exploration of the case, but also of one man’s narcissism and one very astonishing relationship. We can’t wait.
ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe premieres on ITV on Sunday 17 April at 9pm, with the next three episodes airing on consecutive nights at the same time.
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