This is Jinsy: Costume Insanity

Recently underway on Sky Atlantic, This is Jinsy is one of those comedy shows set in a surreal world of madness that you either get or you don’t. Frequently hilarious and always interesting, from a costume point of view this is retro fancy dress, deliberately mismatched and performance orientated. Yet everything in Jinsy makes sense within its own world.

The island of Jinsy is populated (791 residents) by all manner of weird and wonderful people. The locale has been likened to The Wicker Man’s Summerisle but is spiritually closer to the Village from Patrick McGoohan’s sixties TV series, The Prisoner. Everyone in Jinsy seems trapped there but somehow content. Episode one entitled ‘The Wedding Lottery’ introduces a lot of faces very quickly. All the inhabitants are broadly drawn, however, so relatively easy to fathom.

Justin Chubb as Maven, David Tennant as Mr Slightlyman and Chris Bran as Sporall. Believe it or not Sporall is the normal one.

Jinsy is immediately presided over by Arbiter Maven (played by Justin Chubb, one half of the show’s writers), magnificently attired in grey lounge jacket with yoke, tucked into long black shorts. His right hand man, Sporall (Chris Bran, writer number two) wears a 1970s, three piece suit. This is about as ‘normal’ as clothing ensembles on Jinsy get. He is our way into Chubb and Bran’s world. Sporall understands the island is bonkers, conveying this with a world weary cynicism, though will still happily ride in a wooden Swan powered by children wearing pink bridesmaids’ dresses.

If Sporall is the most sane character on Jinsy, Soosan Noop (Alice Lowe) is the most beautiful, even wearing brown bowl wig, brown suede and tweed waistcoat, brown shirt, lighter brown rollneck and velour skirt with Fairisle socks. Costume designer Annie Hardinge has let her imagination off the reins to create a collage of skewed soap opera archetypes, each one obviously part of the Jinsy community yet all somehow different. Refreshingly, Jinsy is the kind of place where cross dressing is seen as completely acceptable – Harry Hill as purring Joon Boolay works this ensemble like a pro. In fact, Sporall in his plain suit is the only odd one out.

Alice Lowe plays handywoman Soosan Noop (second right). Don’t let the tool belt fool you; she can’t fix anything.

Costume is also amusingly incorporated into the script. Towards the end of episode two, ‘Cupboards’, Sporall is attacked by orange western suit wearing con man, Eric Dunt (Peter Serafinowicz); a scrunched up sweater thrown at his face ‘Naked Gun’ style. “It’s so itchy!” cries Sporrall. “It’s an acrylic mix” laughs Eric. Away from his scam disguise, Eric dons a nasty green spiv suit beloved by dodgy insurance salesmen. Special guest stars appear to be a recurring factor. In episode one, David Tennant features as ultra camp Mr Slightlyman. In bright yellow jacket, skin tight paisley trousers and platform shoes we should have known not to trust him from the start.

As a forerunner to episode two’s climax, Chubb and Bran play a couple of new characters (they play several throughout), evidently in homage to Jagger and Bowie, for a musical segment singing “Fruit Suit”. Yes, they are covered head to foot in plastic fruit – what did you expect? Only a few minutes into This is Jinsy and you will see local gossip Mrs Goadion (Janine Duvitski) in a powerfully patterned red dress and hat that exactly match the curtain behind her. Just open your mind and let it spill on the floor.

This is Jinsy began with a double bill on Sky Atlantic on 19th September.

© 2011 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.