Kiri is channel 4’s new four-part drama about the abduction of a young black girl in foster care.
Super-sweet Felicia Mukasa makes her acting debút in the title role, as smart, optimistic 9-year-old Kiri Akindele, who is fostered to a white couple, Alice and Jim Warner (Lia Williams and Steven Mackintosh). Whilst awaiting adoption by another white family, Kiri is allowed on an unsupervised visit with her birth grandfather after which she goes missing. It also emerges that the adoption is about to go awry.
BAFTA winner Sarah Lancashire stars as trusted, unconventional social worker Miriam Grayson, known as one of the best. However, she has a reputation amongst her colleagues for taking a rather hands-off approach, enjoying a hit of booze from her hip flask in her morning coffee and over-sharing without thinking. She finds herself at the centre of the chaos following Kiri’s disappearance. Blamed by her colleagues, the police and the public for not looking out for the child, she is also hounded by the press. Miriam must work out how to rectify the disastrous situation.
Grandad Tobi (Lucian Msamati – Amadeus at the National, previously in Game of Thrones and No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency), struggles under the ensuing scrutiny of his race, character and difficult relationship with his children – daughter Rochelle (Andi Osho), and son Nate, Kiri’s birth father played by 2017 #TBBHero Paapa Essiedu (The Miniaturist, Utopia), who also soon becomes the chief suspect.
BAFTA-winning Wunmi Mosaku (Fearless, Damilola, Our Loved Boy, Guerilla) returns to our small screens as another senior police officer, this time as Detective Inspector Vanessa Mercer, who leads the investigation into Kiri’s complex case.
Written by Jack Thorne (mini-series National Treasure, episodes of Skins and This Is England, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, Woyzeck adaptation) Kiri, is touted as being likely to spark great debate about interracial adoption. What’s worrying for us is that this has been written by a white male.
Thorne has chosen a racial and socially emotive subject which is intentionally going to trigger most of us. Not only is the child fostered by white parents, she is to be adopted by white parents, although she has a black family; a family he’s chosen to represent as having difficult internal relationships in a city with a ‘dark’ history of trading in slaves, and still has issues with negative racial bias. Thorne says he’s always wanted to find a way of examining the pressures that caring professionals are put under, after growing up with a mother who worked in the field. This explains Lancashire’s character, but not so much the child’s birth family. Hopefully, this won’t be another case of using black pain as a backdrop to a white hero’s story.
Considering that our reviewer didn’t find the relationships Thorne created within Harry Potter’s family in ‘The Cursed Child‘ consistent or believable, we’re a little bit worried about how Thorne visualises this black family here.
However, mixed-race award-winning playwright Rachel De-Lahay is also credited as a writer, hopefully she was brought in to lend insight into African family dynamics. Euros Lynn directs. The drama was filmed over 2 weeks last August at multiple locations around Bristol, which becomes Miriam’s vibrant patch.
We really hope that Kiri is sensitive to the people it is choosing to depict …
Part one of Kiri airs tonight, January 10th, at 9 pm on Channel 4, at 10 pm on Channel 4+1, and will become available for international viewers on streaming site, Hulu.
Read TBB’s #OutOf1oo review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child here.