The Secret review – Infidelity? It's what God would have wanted

James Nesbitt leads a gripping true-crime drama where churchgoers are driven to wickedness by misplaced affections

Music lessons. Like personal trainers, they lead to trouble – sordid infidelity, sometimes worse. If your partner expresses an interest in taking up an instrument, discourage them quickly: it almost certainly means they’re intending to stray.

Here in The Secret, (ITV) Bible-bashing Baptist dentist Colin is helping married teacher and fellow happy-clapper Hazel with a few basic guitar chords. This finger here, this one here … ooh, and this one here. Next thing you know, they’re strumming each other, fornicating wickedly.

What about God, though? The church is very important to both of them. Isn’t there something in the Bible about what they’re up to? Actually it’s what He would have wanted, says Colin. “This is God’s gift, it would be wrong to refuse it,” he tells Hazel. Colin’s very persuasive like that.

More of a problem are Colin’s wife and Hazel’s husband, who understandably aren’t too happy. Colin’s got an answer for that as well. “Now what if we could help them?” he says to Hazel after a bit of How’s Our Father in the back of the car. “End their suffering. Humanely.”

WHAT?! He’s suggesting murdering both of their spouses? (And putting a positive spin on that as well – no doubt it’s what He would’ve wanted). Too much, you’re not having it ... you might say, if it was fiction. But this is true-life drama: it really happened, in the Baptist community of Coleraine, Northern Ireland, in 1990. And that’s not the end of it; there are another three parts to come.

Pillar of the community … Colin (James Nesbitt, right) greets love rival Trevor, played by Glenn Wallace.
Pillar of the community … Colin (James Nesbitt, right) greets love rival Trevor, played by Glenn Wallace. Photograph: Steffan Hill/Hat Trick / ITV

James Nesbitt, who plays Colin and who’s from the area (his sister knew Colin’s wife), is utterly convincing in the role. It’s a brilliant, terrifying portrait of a man who is charming and clever, a pillar of the community (never trust those pillars) but also manipulative and controlling, and who thinks that the rules – of law and of God – simply don’t apply to him.

It’s an equally scary portrait of the community – devout to the point that religion becomes a cover to throw over serious evil and pretend it’s not happening. And where being shunned by or expelled from the congregation is considered a worse option than doing really bad stuff, like disobeying commandment number six.

Contributor

Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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