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Canoe Man (BBC Drama, Bernard Hill, Saskia Reeves)

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Drama documentary Canoe Man is based on the real life story of John Darwin (Bernard Hill) who in the early 2000’s faked his death, Reggie Perrin, style by disappearing whilst out on his canoe at sea. For five years his wife Anne (Saskia Reeves) played the grieving widow whilst all the time John was still alive and spent the time living in his old house but using a hidden doorway into the house next door (which was divided into bedsits and was also owned by the Darwins) to escape if any one came to visit. Huge debts had prompted the disappearance and the couple were able to utilise the life insurance policy which they had taken out not long before John went missing.

After five years of major beard growing the pressure got too much for Darwin and he handed himself in to police claiming to have amnesia however it wasn’t long before the real story of his disappearance came out. It seems a move to Cuba was on the cards after the Darwins bought an apartment in Panama but neither of them really wanted to leave the UK.

This is a great piece of “from the headlines” television, it’s hour long running time means it gets right to the heart of things, mainly using the perspective of Anne (played in great look-a-like style by Saskia Reeves) as she tries to juggle all the various lies she has told.

Cast: BERNARD HILL as John Darwin; SASKIA REEVES as Anne Darwin; JEREMY LEGAT as Anthony Darwin; PHILIP CORREIA as Mark Darwin; PETER CELLIER as Judge; MARY ROSCOE as Solicitor; PHILIP McGOUGH as Journalist; CARL PROCTOR as Carl Proctor; EMILIA DOBIE as Receptionist; PEPE BALDERRAMA as Carlos; KATE AMBLER as Flick; JEREMY SWIFT as DS Twist; BILL THOMAS as Farmer

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Writer and Director: Norman Hull / Producer: Flavia Taylor

UK / BBC Four / 1×59 minute episode / Broadcast 31 March 2010 @ 9.00pm


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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