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Inseperable Sisters review: Sew sweet! The giggly conjoined twins with a passion for fashion, writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS


Inseparable Sisters (BBC 1)

Rating:

Bring The Drama (BBC 2)

Rating:

The most frustrating problems with any disability are the ones you don’t think of. 

For dad Ibra- hima, a former managing director whose seven-year-old daughters are conjoined, he couldn’t have imagined the challenges ahead.

Marieme and Ndeye, joined at the pelvis, have serious and inevitable medical needs.

That was clear from birth, when they weren’t expected to survive more than a few days.

Schooling, transport, care at home, all of these present huge difficulties, and the one-off documentary Inseparable Sisters (BBC1) did not flinch from any of them. 

But only people with direct experience of this rare condition could guess at how nearly impossible it would be to give the twins something all little girls love — stylish clothes.

The charm of this documentary was seeing not only the sweetness of Marieme and Ndeye’s giggly personalities, and Ibrahima’s inexhaustible optimism, but also the enthusiasm of everyone who chipped in to help.

The children were born in Dakar, Senegal, and came to Britain with their parents in the hope of an operation at Great Ormond Street hospital to separate them. That wasn’t possible: Marieme’s heart is too weak, and she would not survive.

Marieme and Ndeye, joined at the pelvis, have serious and inevitable medical needs - Inseparable Sisters (BBC1)

Marieme and Ndeye, joined at the pelvis, have serious and inevitable medical needs – Inseparable Sisters (BBC1)

The charm of this documentary was seeing not only the sweetness of Marieme and Ndeye¿s giggly personalities, and Ibrahima¿s inexhaustible optimism, but also the enthusiasm of everyone who chipped in to help

The charm of this documentary was seeing not only the sweetness of Marieme and Ndeye’s giggly personalities, and Ibrahima’s inexhaustible optimism, but also the enthusiasm of everyone who chipped in to help

‘At this point,’ said their father, ‘it’s just killing one of my children for another. That is something I can’t do.’

With superlative healthcare here keeping them alive, the girls’ mother was forced to go back to Senegal to look after her other children. 

We didn’t hear from the mum, and if this programme had been extended to an hour, instead of being confined to 40 minutes, we might have learned something of how the girls felt about missing her.

Whether Ibrahima is in touch with other families who have conjoined twins, and how rare this is in Britain, we also were not told.

The twins now attend primary school in Cardiff Bay, where they share a crowd of friends despite their differing personalities — Ndeye is assertive and bubbly, Marieme is thoughtful and quiet.

Their dad has to get clothes altered to fit them, combining two upper bodies and a third sleeve, but Marieme often feels the cold, while her sister gets too warm easily. It’s obvious, but you wouldn’t think of it until it’s pointed out.

When she heard about the girls, textiles teacher Sue James at the University of South Wales offered exactly the help this family needed — encouraging Marieme and Ndeye to choose favourite fabrics and then creating a party dress, a sweatshirt divided into snug and lightweight halves, and an equally ingenious coat. 

The episode ended with the duo putting on their own little fashion display.

Last year Channel 4 ran a short season about clothes for people with disabilities, The Unique Boutique. But telly could do much more to help here — a season of The Great British Sewing Bee devoted to providing outfits for children such as Marieme and Ndeye would be fantastic.

Bring The Drama, BBC2, Bill Bailey, Gemma Crooks and Jason White

Bring The Drama, BBC2, Bill Bailey, Gemma Crooks and Jason White

Bill Bailey was dressed to kill, or at least to examine a corpse, on Bring The Drama (BBC2). Introducing an acting challenge where the contestants played characters from Silent Witness, he was wearing the gauze overalls of a forensics officer. ‘I look like a beekeeper on holiday,’ he grumbled.

The eight amateurs are trying to impress casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry, but the secret of this format is that casting directors are like telly critics — everyone’s qualified to do it. 

Bring The Drama would work better if we spent more time watching the auditions and less listening to the X Factor-style back stories, but the show is still finding its rhythm.

In an autopsy scene, the pretend pathologists were told to project ‘a quizzical yet informed air’. That sums up Emilia Fox’s Dr Nikki precisely.



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