‘Insulting!’: viewers criticise accents in ‘canoe man’ drama

<span>Photograph: ITV/PA</span>
Photograph: ITV/PA

It has had rave reviews for the quality of its writing and acting but for many local people there has been a problem with ITV’s “canoe man” fake death drama: the accents.

“Why is it that ITV thinks people from Teesside speak with a geordie accent?” asked one disgruntled viewer. “Insulting!!!!”

“The thing about NE accents is they change about 10 times in a 20-mile radius,” said another more forgiving viewer. “I sound different to someone from six miles up the road. They’re so nuanced.”

The drama, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, stars Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan as canoe man John Darwin and his beleaguered wife, Anne.

It tells the true story of one of the most remarkable crime stories of recent years in which Darwin pretends to have perished while out canoeing in the North Sea. It is set in Seaton Carew, a fishing village on the edge of Hartlepool, where the couple lived in an enormous seven-bedroom house overlooking the sea.

The social media storm over their accents prompted the drama’s writer, Chris Lang, to defend the actors.

“It’s lovely that people are so passionate about their own accents!” he tweeted. “John & Anne of course weren’t from Seaton Carew, they only moved there in 2002. They were both born near Blackhall & over the next five decades lived and worked in (to name a few) Newcastle, Chester Le Street & Durham.”

It was a noble gesture but only led to more questions for some.

“If they were from Blackhall they’d have had Pitmatic accent,” said Mad Mackem. “Thoo, thow, thy, and the knaws, every village, town and hamlet has a different accent up here. My wife and I are from the same city but have slightly different accents from each other, she’s from north of the river.”

It was also confusing for some in that Marsan and Dolan had said in interviews that while filming they spoke to each other exclusively in a Hartlepool accent in order to “sound like a couple who live together, so that they have inflections and tones that are complementary to each other”.

The accents of actors is always a sensitive subject. Russell Crowe once walked out of a Radio 4 interview after Mark Lawson suggested his performance in Robin Hood sounded more Irish than Nottingham.

“Bollocks,” was Crowe’s response. “You’ve got dead ears, mate. You’ve seriously got dead ears if you think that’s an Irish accent.”

Whatever the truth about the accents in The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, at least local residents could enjoy seeing Seaton Carew on screen.

“Looks like it was filmed on the Headland rather than Seaton Carew,” one Twitter user pointed out.

Yes, replied Lang. “Couldn’t film there for all sorts of reasons.”