In an hour of absorbing but disturbing drama, ‘Three Girls’ laid bare the extent of the double cruelty dished out to dozens of young girls in Rochdale - the first when they were groomed for sexual abuse at the hands of a ring of men of all ages, the second when they tried to speak out, and weren’t believed by anybody charged with their protection
The young actors who brought the girls’ pain to screen were uniformly good - their initial hedonism replaced by their blank stares and silent defiance as they became the unwitting instruments of strange men’s pleasure.
Of the three faces brought to screen to represent dozens of real-life victims, Molly Windsor as Holly Winshaw was particularly moving, as her all-too-familiar rebellion against her parents turned into something darker, before she was finally rescued by them.
Two performances for me stood out, though. As Holly’s father, Paul Kaye - unrecognisable since his Dennis Pennis days - brought everything to bear, his disbelief, his rage turning into protectiveness as he all too clearly blamed himself for his daughter’s plight.
And in the middle of it all, Maxine Peake had the bellowing voice of a furious angel, channelling the indignation of real-life whistleblower Sara Rowbotham. She spoke for everyone watching with her disbelief, faced with a social worker keen to remove the unborn baby of one of the victims, rationalising they were working to protect “the child”. “The child?” she shouted. “I’m not talking about the unborn baby, I’m talking about the fifteen-year-old girl.”
Great writing, excellent performances, necessary watching of a tale that should never have had to be told.
‘Three Girls’ continues this week on BBC One. Catch up on BBCiPlayer.