London, 1980s. And as young people head for London and the liberating sexual freedom away from the repressive family homes of suburbia, so a new disease, the ‘gay cancer’, strikes down many in their prime.
It’s a Sin is a raw, emotional five-part mini-series following the lives of a group of friends, mostly gay, as they live life to the full – but for some, that life is tragically short. The series beautifully captures the zeitgeist of place and time where anything and everything is possible as Ritchie Tozer (Olly Alexander) arrives from a very straight-laced Isle of Wight to study law. Meeting Jill (Lydia West), he soon changes to English and drama and a new lifestyle begins. Casual sexual encounters abound as Ritchie discovers a new lease on life – aided by a flat share with Jill, part-time lover Ash (Nathaniel Curtis), flamboyant Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and the quiet, Savile Row trainee, Colin (Callum Scott Howells).
Over the five hours of the miniseries, these independent characters take you through the emotional ringer – from Roscoe’s fear of his Ghanaian preacher father to the uptight working conditions of Savile Row; the demeaning struggles to gain Equity cards to success on the West End stage. But the spectre of HIV/AIDS always looms. Some refuse to acknowledge the threat and change their behaviour (Ritchie in particular), others, like Jill, research everything they can find.
Friends and associates disappear as they come to terms with contracting the disease. The shock is heartbreaking, the responses by authorities and families alike distressing. It’s a Sin is no easy ride, even with large doses of light relief. Fully-fledged characters take centre stage as they sass, party, f*ck, cry, laugh, drink their way through the best years of their lives. And then, some are gone. Written by Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk, Torchwood), not every storyline works (the relationship between Roscoe and the high-ranking politician – Stephen Fry – is somewhat tenuous) but the series is a poignant reminder of those terrible days and those who were prematurely lost. And the last death in the series (no spoilers) results in one of the most devastating moments of all.