The Virtues

Shane Meadows returns to Channel 4, with Stephen Graham, for Ireland-set drama The Virtues

Category: News Article, News Release

The series features music composed by British musician PJ Harvey, and stars BAFTA-nominated Stephen Graham alongside Irish actors Helen Behan and Niamh Algar. 

Shane Meadows returns to Channel 4 showcasing his inimitable style with a powerful, bold drama that tackles themes of repressed memory, apocalyptic revenge and the hope of redemption. 

BAFTA-nominated Stephen Graham (This is England, ’86, ’88, ’90, Boardwalk Empire, Taboo) is Joseph, a barely on-the-wagon alcoholic whose precarious reality is knocked for six when his ex-partner moves abroad with their young son, from Liverpool to Australia, for a better life. 

With no immediate family to live for, Joseph is haunted by a past he has tried, for decades, to forget – if not actively obscure with drink and drugs. Suffering the hangover from hell – the dry spell over – he walks away from his present life and boards a boat bound for Ireland to confront hazy, fear-inducing memories from a childhood spent in the care system that he’s had to forget. 

Emotionally and physically wrecked, Joseph reunites with an incredulous Anna (Helen Behan, This is England ‘88 & ‘90), the sister he hasn’t seen since childhood. Anna persuades her wary husband Michael (Frank Laverty; Michael Collins) to let Joseph stay and give him work in the family-owned building company. There, Joseph is forced to directly confront the demons of his past when he comes face to face with Craigy (Mark O’Halloran), a shadowy figure who is dogged by dark rumours, and who won’t leave Joseph alone. 

Joseph’s precarious family reunion is further complicated when he is immediately drawn to Michael’s fiery sister Dinah (Niamh Algar; The Bisexual, Pure). Angry and lost, Dinah is fiercely guarded, and, like Joseph, haunted by a deeply-held secret. 

The Virtues is a visceral and hauntingly unforgettable paean to the human spirit, shot through with bittersweet tenderness, compassion and unexpected moments of laugh-out-loud humour throughout. 

Deftly addressing challenging themes of revenge, redemption and repressed memory, Meadows and co-writer, BAFTA-winning Jack Thorne, ask questions of what it really means to be, and have, family. 

The music for the series is provided by multi-award-winning British composer and recording artist, PJ Harvey. Harvey’s most recent works include scores for Peaky Blinders S2, and stage productions for Ian Rickson (The Nest, Electra, The Goat) and Ivo Van Hove (All About Eve).

Written by Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne (This is England, ’86, ’88, ’90, National Treasure), The Virtues is directed by Meadows and produced by Mark Herbert (This Is England, ’86, ’88, ’90) and Nickie Sault, who takes on her first producing role after working as 1st AD on This is England 86, 88, 90. The 4 X 60’ series was commissioned by former C4 Head of Drama Beth Willis and now overseen by C4's current Head of C4 Drama, Caroline Hollick. It is a Warp Films and Big Arty production.