Showmax's The Girl from St Agnes is well worth binge-watching

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Nina Milner as Kate.
Photographer: Patrick Toselli
Nina Milner as Kate. Photographer: Patrick Toselli

The Girl from St Agnes
Available on Showmax
4 stars out of 5

Showmax’s first original drama is a dark and riveting story that explores countless themes relevant to the lives of everyday South Africans.

The Girl from St Agnes is set in the Natal Midlands surrounding Pietermaritzburg and largely plays out in an all-girls high school and boarding school. The catalyst for the dark murder mystery is the death of Lexi Summerveld (Jane de Wet), found dead on the school’s grounds.

While Lexi’s death is ruled an accident by the police, drama teacher Kate Ballard (Nina Milner) believes there is a more sinister story behind what happened to the 17-year-old.

The series follows Kate’s investigation of St Agnes’ staff and students, and other community members, as she tries to find the truth.

Her quest reveals one secret after another – some sordid and others truly horrifying – as she unravels Lexi’s relationships with other characters.

Kate relies on her long-time friend and confidant Shane Moolman (Tyrone Keogh), a security specialist for the school, to help her piece together the events preceding Lexi’s death. But both Shane and Kate have secrets of their own.

Not only is The Girl from St Agnes an engrossing story, but the show’s cinematography is brilliant and serves to set the tone of Kate’s investigation as well as the stories that unfold alongside it.

The series stars several newcomers to local television, in addition to film and TV veterans who have made it for themselves on international screens.

Most notable is Robert Hobbs (Rhythm City; BBC’s To the Ends of the Earth) who stars as Gary Clayton, a local farmer and leading figure in the school community, as well as the father of two of the teenage lead characters.

The production attempts to explore various themes, including sexuality, drugs and sexual violence, and, while it examines many of these with aplomb, its attempt to navigate race is little more than ham-fisted.

In The Girl from St Agnes, race is rarely seen through more than a white lens, with the few black characters in the show typecast as reactionary and their experiences merely framed as a tool to manipulate their white counterparts.

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That said, I expect more from a South African production when it comes to race than I might from a foreign production, considering how intricately race is woven into our lives.

Despite the show’s shortcomings, it really is one of the best South African productions I have seen.

It has undeniably earned the excitement it has thus far garnered – the show’s debut last week saw it breaking Showmax’s record for unique viewers in the first 24 hours of its airing.

The Girl from St Agnes is a valuable addition to South African television, and I highly recommend it not only to viewers interested in the murder mystery genre, but to anyone interested in seeing the latest in what local producers have to offer.

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