Dervla Kirwan

  • Actor

Known for: Goodnight Sweetheart (Phoebe Bamford)

Press clippings

Why Goodnight Sweetheart is the most subversive sitcom

There aren't many sitcoms about a grown man pretending to be a spy who wrote The Beatles' back catalogue. Who also befriends Noel Coward, saves Clement Attlee's life, and meets George VI, the Kray twins and Winston Churchill. Then again, time-travelling oddity Goodnight Sweetheart was no ordinary sitcom.

Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 8th July 2016

Though it offered the filthy pleasure of Stephanie Beacham pouting her lips and purring 'a demain' at Dervla Kirwan in one of the most excruciating flirtation scenes ever committed to film - a car crash of a lipstick lesbian encounter that made you want to flick over but somehow you couldn't - the finale of Material Girl (BBC1) was a distinctly bargainbasement affair. And the BBC knew it, tugging it out of its usual Thursday night slot and shifting it to after the news on Wednesday. Not exactly a show of faith. For some reason, Material Girl ditched the fashion satire it kicked off with and opted instead for a second-hand chicklit love-triangle story that never felt remotely convincing. It was so last season even before the credits rolled.

Keith Watson, Metro, 18th February 2010

If Glee grabs its stereotypes and gives them a big, bone-crushing bear hug, Material Girl, the BBC's new fashion-world drama, lacks the courage even to shake hands with the stock characters it promised to deal with.

The first episode found young designer Ali putting the finishing touches to what was supposed to be a fabulous high-end collection backstage at a Paris fashion show. Sadly, it looked more like the latest Ann Summers range had exploded all over the catwalk and the credibility of the show spiralled downwards from there on.

The problem with the costumes (The Apprentice has better-dressed casts) is one of many. Worse is the uneven tone - Dervla Kirwan, who went high camp with her arch bitch performance, clearly didn't get the memo that told the rest of the cast they should play it straight to the point where they seemed to be boring themselves.

The whole thing is accessorised with some crudely sketched moral dilemmas ("Is fashion more important than being a good person?"), lots of clunky name-dropping and a female Iraq veteran with Hollyoaks body whose post-traumatic stress appeared to be solved by a skimpy orange dress.

The fashion industry may be many things, lots of them worthy of a send-up, but it is rarely dull and never worthy so it's baffling that Material Girl managed to be both. An independent report published earlier this week suggests that the Beeb should spend less time and money chasing 16- to 35-year-olds and focus on quality broadcasting. If confirmation were needed, this series is it.

Rhiannon Harries, The Independent, 17th January 2010

Right, that's the froth dealt with. Now to the espresso underneath. With a glass of Veuve Clicquot and a line of coke on the side. Because Material Girl (BBC1), an important new drama set in the world of fashion, takes on the ­altogether more profound question: what to wear? OK, it's silly and deeply shallow. It's also gorgeous, fizzy, bitchy, self-indulgent, obviously bad for you but dangerously addictive. Careful, Material Girl could become a habit.

Dervla Kirwan makes a splendid queen bitch evil designer with no talent but an impressive Rolodex. Being ­Human's lovely Lenora Crichlow is again lovely as Ali, the talented young designer, who's tottering in five-inch heels along the thin line between the real world and fashion nonsense. Only the hunk is wrong - too puppyish and doey-eyed to be a hunk, I think. And since when did motorcycle couriers ride Harley-Davidsons?

It's part of the Babylon franchise, based on the writing of Imogen ­Edwards-Jones. This is better than ­Hotel Babylon though - simply more fun. As usual, IE-J wrote her book with "Anonymous", an insider from the world in which it's set. Unfortunately, although I understand chaos theory perfectly, I know very little about ­fashion, so can't ­comment on its veracity. But I know a woman who understands fashion well, my own insider - let's just call her Guardian fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley.

The daft, post-show, backstage ­"Darling, you are a fashion goddess" conversations between the celebrity and the designer are spot on, says JC-M. Plus the brash, very London supermodel, and the slimy Eurotrash ­business partner in the turtle neck - right again, those people are real.

Obviously a lot of old fashion cliches are dragged out, some of which JC-M could have done without, such as the scene in the shoe shop where Ali sells her soul for a nice pair of shoes: Jess is so over that scene, she's seen it about 5,000 times, come aaaawn. And where it's just plain wrong, she says, is when the baddie journalist demands sexual favours of a GIRL - very unlikely. The men in fashion really are gay. Oh, and she likes it. So I was right about that.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 15th January 2010

Flights of fancy were evident in the glossy BBC drama Material Girl, an hour that felt a bit like a day of blistering sunshine and horrendous hailstorm: funny then not funny; sharp, then suddenly, lamentably pedestrian. The story of a plucky young fashion designer and her evil former boss had all the Cinderella elements of Ugly Betty, the show it most obviously resembled. However, whereas the latter glorifies in its absurdity, its camp cartoonishness, Material Girl allowed Dervla Kirwan as Davina to dress up as Cruella de Vil, and snarl and scowl icily, but then the tone receded and became all workmanlike and clunky. British, in other words.

Lenora Crichlow as Ali, who had left the evil Davina to set up on her own, slugged beer from a bottle (to show she was a regular gal), she didn't want some fancy-schmancy star to wear her dress to the Baftas (yeah right!). Her boyfriend is just a regular guy courier who rides a motorbike and who puts her, chaste and untouched, to bed after she gets hideously drunk. What a prince.

Material Girl isn't as bad as some critics say, but it's not as fun as it could be. It's not really new to identify fashion as vapid and fashion people as empty, self-serving egotists. (Oh and for all the men to be bitchy, camp gays: there are not enough of them on TV, thanks!) There's a great moment in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep tells Anne Hathaway she can pretend to be all superior about this empty world, but what about the blue jumper she's wearing ... which Streep then deconstructs piercingly. Material Girl could be very funny, if it had a sharper, more knowing respect for the world it sets out to satirise.

Tim Teeman, The Times, 15th January 2010

I'm not convinced by the BBC's new fashion comedy drama, Material Girl. After the first five minutes, I thought I was - convinced it was hopelessly, unsalvageable, awful, that is - though by the end, I'd had a slight change of heart. Seemingly a sort of low-budget British version of Ugly Betty, it offers none of the attractions it should: no wit, no glamour, and absolutely no plausibility.

We started with a frenetic backstage scene at a fashion show. The characters were introduced to us one by one, each as subtle as a crude joke: Ali Redcliffe, the goody two-shoes designer heroine; Marco, the suave straight guy, GQ by way of Next; Davina Bailey, the posh, bitch Grande Dame (played by the fabulous Dervla Kirwan); and Alex, Ali's bow-tied gay best friend. The most peculiar of all is Mitchell, a trilby-glad omnisexual fashion journalist who says things like "les balls, c'est boring" all the while wearing a horrendously dadsy scarf.

The plot is similarly flimsy; good girl Ali loses job and bad girl Davina's, but is rescued by an investment from mysterious Marco, allowing her to set up her own label. While Davina chases superficial celebs to endorse her label, Ali goes for the underdog. Ahhhhh. Along the way, she meets a hunky boy, prompting lots of Bridget Jones-esque angst.

Really, it has very little at all to recommend it, except, that is, strong performances from all the lead roles. And, against all better judgement, I found myself sticking to it. Will I watch it again? Probably not on purpose. But if I happen to tune in by accident, I might just stay there. Guiltily.

Alice-Azania Jarvis, The Independent, 15th January 2010

The first thing that didn't quite fit with Material Girl (BBC1) was that it didn't have Madonna's hit as its title tune. Why namecheck an iconic pop moment and then ignore it? The answer must be money - and as fashion frolics go, Material Girl, for all its catwalk affectations, is more Primark than Prada, an off-the-peg bargain that can only dream of designer exclusives. No harm in that. The fleeting nature of fashion is ideally suited to the frothy flash of Material Girl, the pantomime style tale of Ali (Lenora Crichlow), a Cinderella-type designer who is done down by her wicked ex-boss who steals all the credit for her stunning gowns. You have to take the 'stunning' on trust because everyone keeps saying they are - they looked like a load of old tat to me but then what do I know?

It's stacked to the tips of its nine-inch stilettos with clichés - Ali's best mates are a camp bloke, a ditzy model and a frumpy dogsbody - yet there's something about its cheap and cheerful lipgloss look at life that's curiously endearing. Crichlow manages to give Ali a likeability she probably doesn't deserve, given she's actually a bit of a whinger, but it's Dervla Kirwan as Ali's ex-boss Davina who gives Material Girl some much-needed bite.

In the real world, Kirwan's Davina, a spiteful stepsister to Ugly Betty's Wilhelmina, would have had Ali shipped off to a sweatshop for daring to step out of line. But Material Girl is dealing in flighty fantasy, so its narrative is driven by willing Ali to get one over on the evil old queen. But I hope Davina comes out on top - her bitchy lines are so much more bespoke.

Keith Watson, Metro, 15th January 2010

Another adaptation of Imogen Edwards-Jones Babylon books, this one "peeks up the skirts" of the fashion industry - and finds it's wearing no knickers. The story is your typical fairy tale. Talented young designer Ali Redcliffe (Leonora Crichlow) works for Davina Bailey (a splendid-looking Dervla Kirwan, all red lipstick and pearls), an international fashionista who has no qualms about taking the credit for her staff's hard work. Eventually, Ali teams up with Marco (Michael Landes), a mercurial entrepreneur with a dodgy reputation, and sets herself up in direct competition to Davina. I think we can all see where this is going. It's glamorous, bitchy, frothy and utterly shallow. Kirwan does her best to out-ice Meryl Streep's glacial performance in The Devil Wears Prada and everyone else does their best to look ravishingly gorgeous. So... Hotel Babylon with Manolo Blahniks on.

Jane Rackham, Radio Times, 14th January 2010

A new comedy-drama set in the fashion world. Lenora Crichlow, a rising talent also seen this week in spooky house-share drama Being Human, stars as ambitious young designer Ali. Dervla Kirwan provides the villainy as her scheming boss. In tonight's opening episode, after a creative flare-up at Paris Fashion Week, Ali quits to set up her own label based in London's hip Brick Lane.

The Telegraph, 14th January 2010

Remember last year when the BBC revealed it was making a sister show to Hotel Babylon, based on author Imogen Edwards-Jones book Fashion Babylon? This is the result, although the channel has wisely renamed the show.

Because while Hotel Babylon was a guilty pleasure - and tackier than melted tar - the first episode of this sparky comedy drama is something for the cast and crew to be proud of.

It centres on fashion designer Ali Redcliffe (Being Human's Lenora Crichlow) who when we meet her is working for the fabulously ghastly diva designer, Davina Bailey (Dervla Kirwan) - imagine a British sister of Ugly Betty's manipulative Wilhelmina crossed with Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

Fed up when Davina stabs her in the back yet again Ali quits and, with the help of a Mr Moneybags, starts up her own label.

Ali is an instantly likeable character so you wish her well. But she's soon caught between doing the right thing and being a success.

Helping - or hindering - her along the way are a string of wonderful characters, including her unscrupulous business partner, Marco (Love Soup's Michael Landes), a light-fingered, gum-chewing receptionist and a trio of friends. And, of course, her former boss - who is incredibly peeved by her protege going it alone.

We're talking Prada handbags at dawn, darlings.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 14th January 2010

Share this page