A father’s grief turns to menace in Britbox’s ‘Trauma’

A dead boy’s father seeks someone to pay

John Simm stars in “Trauma”

After going through the worst day of his life, Dan Bowker is looking for someone to blame.

As played by John Simm (“Doctor Who,” “The Catch”) in the taut three-part psychological thriller “Trauma,” which begins streaming Wednesday, March 14, on Britbox, he’s a mid-level manager at a suburban London plant who learns he’s about to be downsized. With a wife and three kids to raise, that kind of news is always tough to take, and it’s enough to send Dan out to drown his shock and anger. But things go from bad to worse when he returns home to wife Susie (Lyndsey Marshal, “Rome,” “The Hours”) and they learn their 15-year-old son Alex (Albie Marber, “Outlander”) is at the emergency room after being stabbed.

At first, it appears the boy’s injuries are minor, and the surgeon on duty, Dr. Jon Allerton (Adrian Lester, “Hustle,” “Primary Colors”), confidently assures the frightened parents the boy will be OK. But that was before he opened him up and discovered the knife had nicked the heart. Despite what appears to be the doctor’s best efforts, the teen bleeds to death on the table.

Devastated, Dan looks for a target at which to channel his rage and grief, and with no suspect yet in custody, he chooses Jon. Fairly or unfairly, he’s convinced the doc screwed up – and for that the unhinged dad will ruin his life.

“It was quite difficult emotionally to truthfully convey what he’s going through, this character, Dan,” Simm says, “and you’d have to go to places that are not particularly pleasant in your head, I guess, to, sort of, get there – I mean, I’ve got kids. While we were filming it, my son was 15, actually. So, yeah, it was a draining experience, but ultimately, as an actor, that’s what you want to be able to do. You want to portray these characters because conflict is drama, and with a script as good as this … you just want to do it justice, really.”

As crazy and unreasonable as Dan is at times, it’s impossible to not feel his pain, and Simm, a two-time BAFTA nominee in his native England, does an excellent job of bringing to life a father out of his mind with grief. His co-star Lester was impressed.

“John had to carry the sharp end of the pain,” Lester says. “He had to, sort of, carry this belly full of grief, really, with every word that he spoke on the screen. It was full of grief and then anger.

“My job was easier,” he continues, “because I just had to react to him. So it’s on him to be believable and for me to go, ‘I don’t know.’ “

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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