It’s unsettling to consider that it’s just been three and a half years since the Covid-19 epidemic struck the UK, causing lockdowns across the country and grief as hundreds of people died.
While many adhered to the guidelines, especially for major events like as weddings, births, and funerals, others were found to have disregarded the authorities’ social-distancing directives, which occasionally resulted in large penalties.
They included former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was handed a fixed penalty notice in April 2022 and became the first Prime Minister in British history to be convicted of breaching the law.
Channel 4’s new drama Partygate doesn’t shy away from highlighting the rule violations that happened behind closed doors at Downing Street, which were first brought to the public’s notice when a story ran in the Daily Mirror in November 2021.
The drama alternates between dramatised sequences picturing what it was like when government aides partied while tight gathering regulations were in place and tales from real individuals discussing the challenges they encountered during the pandemic’s peak.
The cast depicts scenes of aides dancing sweatily in the basement of Downing Street, singing karaoke, vomiting, bringing in a wine fridge, drinking excessively, hooking up, and demonstrating huge levels of disrespect to the cleaning and security staff, using information directly from civil servant Sue Gray’s partygate report, which was published in May 2022.
While it is based on historical events, the drama’s two leads are fictitious characters: The Chronicles of Narnia’s Georgie Henley, who plays eager-to-please Grace Greenwood, and This England’s Ophelia Lovibond, who plays snobbish Annabel D’acre.
The Special Advisors come from all backgrounds, but they form a working camaraderie as they shop for wine for the illegal parties and talk about their coworkers, all while spending time with ‘The Boss’ Boris.
It’s aggravating how out of touch they and their colleagues are, as footage of wild parties are paired with genuine individuals telling how they weren’t able to be with loved ones when they died, experienced fatalities on the frontlines, or had funerals shortened to 20 minutes.
The pair’s relationship comes to a head when Grace’s morals are called into question by the frequent parties, and Annabel manipulatesly tells her that her career might be jeopardised if she chose to leak anything to the media, despite the fact that the regulations don’t apply to them.
Boris also appears in the movie, both through archive video of the infamous Prime Minister’s news conferences and through the performance of impressionist Jon Culshaw, who voices him in dramatised situations.
The way the imaginary aides suck up to the former Tory leader is unpleasant to say the least… However, considering the conclusions of Sue Gray’s investigation, it does not feel like an unreasonable representation of what may have occurred.
The structure of Partygate, with its blend of dramatisations, true-life experiences from actual people, instructive subtitles, and breaching of the fourth wall, can be unpleasant to watch at times.
But that anxiety just adds to the disgusting character of the event, which will tragically remain a critical point in our nation’s history for the rest of time.
Partygate airs tonight at 9.30pm on Channel 4.