Rain Dogs review: Daisy May Cooper stars in unmissable new series

Eccentric perverts, anatomically obsessive artists, and peepshow punters

Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper) in Rain Dogs (BBC)
Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper) in Rain Dogs (BBC) (BBC/Sid Gentle Films/HBO/James Pardon)

Rain Dogs, which hits BBC One and iPlayer from 4 April, features Daisy May Cooper (This Country), Jack Farthing (Spencer), and Ronke Adekoluejo (Alex Rider) in a foul-mouthed love letter to reluctant sobriety and outrageous indulgence.

Written with the all the invention that can be packed into a pen, Rain Dogs exists in an urban underbelly, populated by eccentric perverts, anatomically obsessive artists, and peepshow punters after some cheap thrills.

Dancing with indifference around a pole, while people get their pleasure, Costello (Cooper) spends her days staying sober and making ends meet.

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Evicted in the opening minutes, she wanders around London killing time and keeping warm with her daughter Iris (Fleur Tashjian) in tow. Elsewhere, Selby (Jack Farthing) is finishing a custodial sentence, while his fellow inmates bid him farewell in a four-letter fashion. Rail thin and Byronesque in his demeanour, this down at heel dandy is the epitome of upper-class entitlement.

Selby (Jack Farthing) in Rain Dogs (BBC)
Selby (Jack Farthing) in Rain Dogs (BBC) (BBC/Sid Gentle Films/HBO/James Pardon)

Across town slouched in a telephone box is an unconscious Gloria (Ronke Adekoluejo), who is roused from her revery by Lenny (Adrian Edmondson). An ailing alcoholic who is decked out in flannel pyjamas, complete with walking frame, oxygen mask, and scant regard for public decency.

That is how writer Cash Carraway introduces the central players in this tale of fractured relationships, which effortlessly remains inoffensive whilst challenging every taboo going. From casual toilet trading, through to R-rated life modelling sessions, Rain Dogs ravages the senses as it boldly sets about making a dramatic statement.

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Over the course of those first two episodes there is a self-destructive relationship put in place between Costello and Selby, which is oddly heart-warming despite its volatile nature. Between the spit and sawdust attitude of one in opposition to her entitled other half, an odd couple empathy emerges, as these two tragic characters come together.

Lenny (Adrian Edmondson), Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper), and Iris (Fleur Tashjian) in Rain Dogs (BBC)
Lenny (Adrian Edmondson), Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper), and Iris (Fleur Tashjian) in Rain Dogs (BBC) (BBC/Sid Gentle Films/HBO/Simon Ridgway)

In terms of traditional plot, audiences may have trouble pinning one down, as Rain Dogs feels more like free form jazz than anything else. These creations are so richly drawn through their dialogue, demeanour, and surroundings that audiences will find them offensive but remain fascinated.

Whether Selby is swanning around London indulging in illicit activities with nameless men, or Lenny is paying off Costello for some very particular cleaning services, this is a show dipped in decadence with more than its fair share of kinks.

Cash Carraway pulls no punches in crafting these characters or the world they exist within. For Costello the aspiring writer, her sole concern is Iris, who lives in abject poverty while this warm-hearted group of broken people do their best to preserve her innocence. From sleeping in a derelict flat on an inflatable pink flamingo, to languishing in luxury courtesy of Selby’s mother Allegra (Anna Chancellor) — Rain Dogs often feels like tonal Russian roulette.

Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper);Selby (Jack Farthing), and Iris (Fleur Tashjian) in Rain Dogs (BBC)
Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper);Selby (Jack Farthing), and Iris (Fleur Tashjian) in Rain Dogs (BBC) (BBC/Sid Gentle Films/HBO/James Pardon)

Flush with ready cash one minute and scrapping around for pennies the next, there is no denying how magnetic this cast can be on-screen. Jack Farthing may have created in Selby, a character which is iconic as Withnail was for Richard E. Grant. Such pompous self-loathing and unabashed entitlement are balanced on a knife edge with every gesture, while his commitment elsewhere makes Selby both heartbreakingly empathic yet morally bankrupt.

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In opposition to this flagrant tour de force, Daisy May Cooper is every inch his equal as Costello. Whether shaming herself to give Iris shelter for the night, or spitting tacks and throwing punches when her closest friend pushes her buttons; she remains deeply human yet equally flawed.

That being said, there is also some outstanding support from Adrian Edmondson, who brings out such pathos in his performance, that Lenny is both lecherous and lovable. His perversions, obsessions, and lifestyle choices may seem offensive at first glance, but the compassion which defines his relationship with Costello restores his humanity.

Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper);Serena (Tanya Moodie) in Rain Dogs (BBC)
Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper);Serena (Tanya Moodie) in Rain Dogs (BBC) (BBC/Sid Gentle Films/HBO/Simon Ridgway)

This is what makes Rain Dogs essential viewing for audiences across every medium, as this BBC rough diamond (co-produced with HBO) displays such a degree of dramatic delicacy and inherent tenderness, despite the events it depicts, that everyone involved deserves recognition come awards season.

For anyone who thought the days of maverick trailblazers was over, please watch this Cash Carraway creation at the earliest opportunity.

Whether on terrestrial television, BBC iPlayer, or on any other platform brave enough to stream this slice of dramatic savagery.

Not only is Rain Dogs a truly original piece of work, defined by desperation, addiction, and self-destruction — but it may yet prove to be the most honest human drama on alcoholism to grace the small screen.

Rain Dogs launches at 10.40pm, Tuesday 4, April on BBC One.