Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything is the title of Sky Comedy’s flippant new show, and it’s true – the eponymous Ms Molloy, played by Sheridan Smith, really does need to give up everything. A single woman best described as a functioning alcoholic and a chronic substance abuser, she arrives, unsteadily, at a crossroads in her life. Her relationships are a mess, too. She’s just drunkenly wrecked the wedding of her brother and learned that her father (Ardal O’Hanlon, ex-Father Ted, and at his charming best) is dying of heart disease. Rosie finds it difficult to accept the concept of “terminal”. It’s time for Rosie to grow up and sober up. Can she? Will she?
We do want to find out, because the Rosie character is a sort of tipsy everywoman; we all know what it’s like when we find ourselves drinking a bit too much, or know someone with such tendencies. In her own words, “All I do is party”. In the case of Rosie, the task to reform is a formidable one. She’s surrounded by people who love her, but perhaps too readily indulge her, such as well-meaning flatmate Nico (Oliver Wellington). In a moment of self-discovery, she places herself in the care of Mel (Stevie Martin), a serene yoga instructor that she met in a bar (naturally). “Please, Mel, fix me. I need help,” she pleads. Mel offers the hope of redemption through mild exercise and meditation, and Rosie sets down a list of the stuff she needs to jettison: “Speed, booze, benzos, opiates, skunk, uppers, z-drugs, Baileys ice cream...” It’s comical, in the darkest kind of way.
In Smith’s spirited (no pun intended) performance, our Rosie is a kind of engaging Mancunian good-time girl who’ll try anything once – and then get addicted to it. When she necks a bottle of wine directly after leaving a hospital ward, in the aftermath of her brother’s wedding disaster, her dress held together with surgical plasters and bits of her drip still embedded in her hand, she declares, “I’m good, thanks.” We can believe that she is indeed good, in her own mind, but also not-so-good. She’s at precisely the stage in her life – 40ish, successful, recently promoted client manager – when she’s getting a bit too old to be constantly off her head in public.
There’s a great deal of dramatic tension in the show, because we see how closely she flirts with utter disaster, as well as unsuitable blokes – getting stoned at her own promotion party, and having “accidental sex” in the loo with a colleague, for example. That’s not in the HR handbook. We can feel how Rosie is just about managing to hold it together without quite going over the edge, but it gives you a sense of vertigo.
Indeed, watching Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything is rather like going on a night out where everything spins a little bit out of control. The kind where you wonder how it’s all going to end, or where – and then have another drink to find out. In Rosie’s case, spying a portrait of flawed humanity teetering on self-destruction which we all may share, we want her to make it. Well, at least until last orders, so to speak.