Mapping the popularisation of snooker in the 1980s, Brain Welsh’s new feature-length comedy-drama The Rack Pack follows the rivalry between two iconic sportsmen, Alex Higgins and Steve Davis.
The self-styled ‘people’s champion’, Luke Treadaway delivers a stunning performance as the troubled but highly charismatic Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. Conversely, Steve Davis (Will Merrick) is conveyed as Higgins’ polar opposite, recognised for his sober professionalism as well as his notoriously ‘boring’ personality.
It is perhaps this characterisation of Davis as boring that led to Higgins’ story dominating the majority of the drama. However, the tumultuous relationship between the pair throughout their careers makes for humorous and poignant viewing.
The Rack Pack is presented as a comedy-drama and whilst full of witty one liners, it is also a tear-jerker. This is conveyed most evocatively through Alex Higgins’ fall from fame, facilitated by his excessive drinking and gambling which saw not only the end of his professional career but also that of his married life.
Additionally, the subtle fusion of archive material into the main drama creates a highly emotive biopic. This is reinforced by the closing scenes which tell us that upon Alex Higgins’ death in 2010, Steve Davis said of his rival that he was “the one true genius that snooker has produced”.
What is interesting is that The Rack Pack is part of the BBC iPlayer’s ‘Exclusive’ programming, only available to watch online. This change seemingly follows on from the successes of non-network television such as Netflix’s original series Orange is the New Black. Additionally, with BBC3 to move onto a solely online platform in the near future, it begs the question as to whether the online format of The Rack Pack, as a funny but also highly touching drama, is indicative of the direction in which the BBC is moving.
Image: Asparukh Akanayev