The Thief His Wife and the Canoe ITV

ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe: the internet reacts to the astonishing true story of Anne and John Darwin in this new drama

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The final episodes of ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe air tonight and tomorrow evening but viewers are already intrigued by the drama, which explores one of the most shocking cases of deception in recent British history. 

If the recent TV offerings are anything to go by, deception, fraud and being duped are all themes that we can’t get enough of. Pair those plotlines with a very real-life case that got the world talking and we’re in for a sure-fire hit of a series, we say.

Apple TV+’s WeCrashed, Disney+’s The Dropout and brand new Wondery podcast Scamfluencers are all just recent examples of content that we can’t stop watching/listening to.

That’s why we’re brimming with excitement for ITV’s latest drama offering. The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe landed on our screens in time for an Easter bank holiday binge-watch and we just knew it was going to be the kind of series that gets everyone talking upon airing.

The four-part drama tells the real-life story of Anne and John Darwin who deceived the world – and their family – into thinking that John was dead after a tragic canoeing accident in 2002. 

The Thief His Wife and the Canoe ITV
The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe is available to watch on ITV and ITV Hub now.

It’s the case that was all over the news channels at the time and after a well-known 2006 photo of the cheery couple in a Panama real estate office was eventually discovered, the pair’s secret was exposed.

The case – while it’s been the focus of podcasts and documentaries already – is getting the ITV treatment with the help of Bafta award-winning director Richard Laxton (Honour, Mrs Wilson) and screenwriter Chris Lang (Unforgotten).

Well, since the new series premiered on Sunday 17 April, many viewers have been quick to praise the show. For many of us, it’s a chance to relive the ludicrousness of the case in a whole new way:

Monica Dolan and Eddie Marsan may embody some infuriating characters but their stellar acting is indisputable in this ITV drama:

The drama gives us a chance to explore the case from Anne’s perspective and it’s been enlightening, to say the least:

It also does a good job of highlighting how easy it could have been for the pair to get caught – a beard, interconnecting doors, need we say more?

It’s safe to say that this drama has well and truly captivated us, not least because it’s all based on true events:

And we can’t wait to see what the final two episodes have in store for us:

Leading the cast of the drama as the enigmatic couple are Monica Dolan (Black Mirror, A Very English Scandal) and Eddie Marsan (Ridley Road, Ray Donovan). Marsan stars as John, who faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy.

The drama, though, focuses on the case more from the perspective of Anne (Dolan), who struggled with keeping the secret for all those years. It focuses on how she “became complicit in her husband’s deception as she started to convince the world, their family and friends, the police and insurance companies, that he had gone missing in 2002 whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew in Cleveland, where the couple owned two large houses with panoramic views of the sea,” according to the synopsis. 

The Thief His Wife and the Canoe ITV
Monica Dolan stars as Anne Darwin in ITV's The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe.

It goes on: “The deception was to take its toll on Anne who lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne. Devastated by the loss of their father, neither son had an inkling their parents were capable of such treachery.

“Anne and John Darwin eventually decided to leave Seaton Carew and move to Panama City to start a new life together before their secret was exposed by the discovery of an infamous photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006.

“At her trial Anne Darwin pleaded not guilty, arguing that she had been coerced into the plot by her husband, but the jury didn’t believe her. She and her husband were both jailed for more than six years.” 

And if that’s not enough to get you equal parts excited and confused for the series, perhaps the trailer will. Watch it for yourself here:

Speaking of the upcoming drama to ITV, writer Lang commented:

“I am beyond delighted to be working with two of the finest actors of their generation. I have admired them both from afar for many years (not in a creepy way though) and cannot wait to see them bring Anne and John Darwin to life.”

Also speaking to RadioTimes about the drama, he discussed how he thinks the public will react to seeing the case dramatised. When asked if he thinks it will strike a chord with viewers, he said: “I hope so. I’m sure many of us have dreamt up extraordinary solutions to our problems and then stepped back from the precipice. The only difference between us and the Darwins is that they jumped.” 

The Thief His Wife and the Canoe ITV
Anne Darwin (Dolan) and her sons (played by Mark Stanley and Dominic Applewhite) in ITV's The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe.

He explained: “In many ways, John Darwin is a relatively easy character to understand (his is the story of a narcissist) but Anne is much more complex, so to try to understand how a mother could have committed such a heinous crime, I decided to place her at the centre of the piece, and then create a device which allowed us to hear her inner monologue, her actual thought processes.”

The drama doesn’t shy away from Anne’s involvement and when asked about choosing not to downplay her role in the upcoming portrayal, he said: “We owed it to the sons, the real victims of John and Anne’s crimes, to be truthful.

“I can’t imagine a greater betrayal than a mum telling you your dad is dead when she knows he is actually still alive. Pretending to be grieving for five years, allowing them to grieve for five years – what would possess a mother to do that? It seems unthinkable to any parent.”

The ITV drama is already an intriguing exploration of the case, but also of one man’s narcissism and one very astonishing relationship. We can’t wait to see how it’ll wrap up.

The third episode of ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe airs tonight on ITV at 9pm, with the finale airing tomorrow night (Wednesday 20 April).

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Images: ITV

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