TV spotlight on abusive relationships

It has to be said that new ITV drama Angela Black is not an easy watch.

And it doesn’t fall into the regular category of relaxed, nostalgia-filled Sunday night viewing.

Within the opening minutes it’s been made shockingly clear that behind the Grand Designs home suave of the central couple lies darkness and brutality.

The violence meted out by husband Olivier to his wife Angela is perhaps all the more stark for being heard but not seen.

From there we learn the admired, dinner-party throwing couple, are clearly not as their friends see them. Angela has suffered repeated physical attacks and emotional abuse.

“You’re always sorry,” she says, after Olivier once again pleads with her not to leave.

And she doesn’t. And that, unfortunately, is where this TV drama draws heavily on the reality of domestic violence.


While viewers may be tempted to shake their heads and ask, ‘why doesn’t she just go?’, it is rarely that straight forward.

That Angela Black can mimic many real-life toxic relationships so well is down to the expert advice sought in production. Women’s Aid brought their years of heart-breaking experiences to bear in ensuring the portrayals on screen had a basis in reality.

Coercive control

Actress Joanne Froggatt, who stars as Angela, has spoken about the support she was given to help her better understand her character’s situation.

This included reading a number of emotion-packed accounts of abusive relationships from Mandy Thomas’ You Can’t Run, acknowledged as one of the most harrowing accounts of domestic violence, to Mel B’s Brutally Honest and Katie Piper’s Beautiful Ever After.

The production team said they wanted to avoid gratuitous violence, and to emphasise instead the less clear-cut aspects of abuse, such as gaslighting and coercive control.

Director Craig Viveiros said he sought to educate viewers on the psychological side of abuse. He wanted to expose the ‘micro-aggressions’ that people can normalise in relationships, admitting it’s not always easy to recognise those signals, particularly for those caught in the middle.

Olivier (Michiel Huisman) plays with many of our preconceptions of an abuser. He’s wealthy, smartly dressed, well-spoken, charming in company. His true self is hidden to all but those who suffer closest to him.

Women’s Aid’s Teresa Parker said that TV dramas like Angela Black increase understanding, start conversations and let women know – when a charity like hers is involved – that there is help and support out there.

The six-parter is sure to continue to spark conversations throughout its run.

→ October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Covid-19 has led to a huge increase in domestic abuse incidents, so awareness and support are more critical than ever.

Help is available:

Women’s Aid


24-hour free helpline – 0808 2000 247

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