A powerful drama about sexual manipulation, the loss of innocence and the betrayal of trust.
We view disturbing events through the eyes of Detective Inspector Matthew Fenton (Ben Daniels). As he embarks on what he thinks is a straightforward missing child investigation, Fenton soon stumbles upon a network of abuse whose tentacles stretch far into the community.
In order to get to the heart of this web of corruption, he must win the trust of Russell, a vulnerable 12-year-old boy. But the more he probes this case, the more Fenton is forced to confront uncomfortable elements in his own relationships.
David Snodin, the award-winning producer responsible for such landmark productions as Crime and Punishment, Holding On and Great Expectations, thinks that this is an unusually potent drama. "The moment I started reading it, I couldn't put it down," Snodin says. "By exploring the links between the perpetrators of abuse and their victims, I believe that Real Men provides the deepest examination of this subject in a drama to date."
Snodin continues by underlining the authenticity of Deasy's script. According to the producer, "this piece is drenched in truth, so it can't be exploitative. Frank's writing may be dangerous and close to the bone, but it's always truthful. You get drawn into the world of these characters - you don't approve of it, but Real Men just shows you how it is."
Barbara McKissack, who is head of drama for BBC Scotland and co-executive producer with Deasy and Victoria Evans, reinforces the point. "Frank and I had been talking for a long time about doing a drama which looks at the issue of child protection," she says.
"The initial inspiration for Real Men came from the sheer number of cases that have happened over the past decade. We realised how endemic the abuse of power within the child-care system had become. I'm afraid it's a phenomenal problem."
"Current research shows that if you're abused as a child, you can develop a distorted view on sexuality and power which may affect you as an adult. We thought it was the perfect, weighty subject for Frank to tackle." The result is an enormously affecting piece of work.
Actor Ben Daniels says that what drew him to the drama was the sheer complexity of his character. "Fenton is a deeply moral man, he's likable and kind," opines Daniels, "But, best of all for an actor, he really changes during the course of this piece. I love the fact that as the drama progresses, his veneer of perfection cracks. We gradually see that he's quite arrogant and emotionally stunted."
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