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© Tiger Aspect

Ripper Street Interview with MyAnna Buring

Hard Medicine and Bad Money

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with MyAnna Buring

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

Damian: At the conclusion of our previous interview for series two of Ripper Street, we briefly mentioned the stage production of Strangers on a Train produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson which you’d just begun rehearsing. What was it like to work with the custodians of the James Bond franchise?

MyAnna: Great fun. Barbara was very hands on and has a work ethic, generosity, and positivity that is simply extraordinary. I know that might sound over the top but she is a very impressive human being and great to work with. Having met them it is not surprising that her and Michael have managed to keep the legend of Bond flourishing all this time.

Damian: While we’re on the subject of trains… No, I’m only joking – it’s more than my life is worth to reveal too much for those who haven’t seen it yet. However, I’m reminded of our discussion about the series two opener last year when you said that “the episode should bring Ripper Street crashing back into people’s living rooms”. Do you think Whitechapel Terminus, the first episode of series three tops this?

MyAnna: I think it does. I must have some sixth sense to have phrased it so last year – or maybe my phrasing last year planted some seeds, subliminally, in the writers minds? Or not… In any case, the show is definitely coming crashing back into living rooms once again.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: Previous press releases have promised that we will see you returning in more of a “starring role” this time. Was this something that you personally championed for or is it simply the natural evolution of Long Susan’s character given the story and plot lines for series three?

MyAnna: No – you can’t champion for such things… if the story doesn’t have a place for you then it doesn’t. You can’t force it to, and it is not my place to force writers to write for me if they don’t feel it’s right – I would never even attempt such a ludicrous thing! Having said that, I have always felt that Rose, Susan, and Cobden were integral characters in the show, so it makes sense that we continue to be so… Richard Warlow and the producers had always had an idea that this is where Susan would end up in her character arc – a kind of Godfather of Whitechapel is how they put it to me – and as Richard, Toby [Finlay], and Will [Gould – executive producer] mapped out this season they felt it was right to go there and I am very glad and grateful they did, as she, as always, was such fun to play.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: Series creator/lead writer, Richard Warlow, and Toby Finlay, who has written more episodes than any of the other contributing writers have provided Susan with many outstanding dramatic scenes and dialogue over the past three years but I’m wondering who knows your character best. Do you ever give Richard or Toby notes on their scripts with reference to Long Susan Hart?

MyAnna: Toby and Richard both get Long Susan and as they’ve gotten to know me I have definitely found Susan using language that I myself use – for example, words such as ‘delicious’ crept into Susan’s vocabulary this year which is a very me thing to say… Also I think they know all of us actors so well now – not only personally, but also what we can do as actors – and they seem to have written very much with that knowledge in mind – this season in particular I’ve noticed that… I’ve never given them notes, although we’ve had chats about where we feel Susan is emotionally – just to confirm that we are on the same page.

Damian: You’ll undoubtedly remember some negative comments regarding the portrayal of women when the first episode of Ripper Street was broadcast back in 2012 and before such hasty commentators had even given the show, or indeed, its female characters a chance to evolve. So, it’s with a certain degree of amusement to observe that Susan, in addition to exhibiting enormous strength and determination herself, has chosen to align herself with some incredibly powerful women such as Jane Cobden (Leanne Best returning in her role from series two) who was the first woman to be elected to the London County Council and helped shape the women’s suffragette movement, and also Dr. Amelia Frayn (a new character played by Sherlock’s Louise Brealey) partially inspired by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Whitechapel-born political campaigner and the first Englishwoman to qualify as a doctor. “Obsidian” was introduced at the end of the last series, can you tell us a little bit about how this has now transformed into a clinic and Susan’s relationship with Jane and Amelia?

MyAnna: Yes even as a feminist – I struggled a little with the misogynistic comments… It is absolutely important in our industry that we keep an eye out for the messages we put across in our story-telling: we do still live in a society where there is inequality and in a culture where casual sexism, racism, prejudice does not help to address this inequality… we need to insist on change.

It is to be celebrated that we can voice our concerns, and as valid and right as that sometimes is, I would argue that at other times this right allows us to make bold statements about whether or not something is or isn’t misogynistic based on a crumb of evidence: one scene, one image… a little more attention may reveal the context in which the scene is shot and may flip our initial knee jerk reactions to it.

RipperStreet is at its core, structurally, a procedural cop drama set in the streets of Whitechapel – streets still reeling from the violent aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s horrific murders of local prostitutes. At its helm is a male police officer flanked by two “helpers” – one brains and one brawn – (there were no female police officers at the time, and even though the show takes liberties with the truth – there are certain constraints by which it abides in order to make the “world” of the show believable).

This is the core structure of Ripper Street and it is the streets of Victorian Whitechapel – this dirty, poor, socially unjust back drop against which all the Ripper Street characters wrestle out their lives… it is against this back drop that the characters question and challenge, and try to fight the misogyny, the corruption, the social and moral bankruptcy – without the images of inequality all around them the show could not make a case for the importance to fight it… the characters are not necessarily any of those things themselves – Reid, Drake, and Jackson are all supporters for the most part of the women in their lives, I feel they are quite evolved in this respect, and the women they are surrounded by are to a large extent written as fully fleshed out humans like the men are as opposed to simply caricatures – if they are victims of their circumstance then I would argue that all the characters in Ripper Street – male and female are fighting those very circumstances.

The nature of a TV show means that some characters develop quicker than others in order to drive the story telling – which is perhaps why some of the female characters may have felt less developed to begin with… It takes time to get to know some people, the same goes for characters… We always knew Susan was at odds with the limitations her society placed on her sex and that she would always be drawn to people and situations who challenged them, the writers had discussed this at length and that was why I was drawn to the project in the first place three years ago… The inclusion of the characters of Cobden, and Frayn was not, I believe, a response to the critics of the first episode, but the natural evolutionary result of a story based in this particular place and this particular time with these particular characters.

So, like I said, Susan always struggled with the injustice of the world she was born into and for her, especially towards the end of the last season, she becomes clear in her conviction that to swing the pendulum of power to favour a woman she needs money and a financial hold over people. She tells the dying Duggan that she will amass his wealth, make it her own, and with it take his place as the most powerful person in Whitechapel.

Cut to season three, four years later she has done just that… however, her dream is to use this power to build a better Whitechapel for its people…She builds a clinic – Obsidian clinic – and brings in a female doctor to run it, and is in the process of building affordable housing for which she has received governmental support in the shape of Jane Cobden. Two women who, like her, are challenging the perceptions of what women can do – however, in the case of the first she is doing it, not through business, but through her education and medicine, and in the case of the last through the means of politics: political campaigning, engaging with and drumming up the support of the disenfranchised people she represents… all equally impressive means to achieve the same end…

Damian: In previous interviews with female Ripper Street cast members, I’ve discussed the Gilbert and Gubar feminist theory concerning how women during the Victorian period were portrayed in fiction as either “angel” or “monster”. To be absolutely clear on this, I have always defended the women of Whitechapel as depicted in the show as incredibly complex and multifaceted but I found Susan’s actions in series three, with particular reference to end of the second episode, The Beating of Her Wings (by Toby Finlay) to be unforgivable and, indeed, truly monstrous. Does the end always justify the means and, on a moralistic level, has Susan passed the point of no return?

MyAnna: It is an incredibly monstrous act she commits… I would argue it is no more or less monstrous because she happens to be a woman – wouldn’t you agree?

Damian: I dare not do otherwise!

MyAnna: It is written – as are so many of Rippers’ scenes – precisely so, in order that we question whether the end justifies the means – that is one of the over riding themes of Ripper – we keep coming back to it… There is a wealth of source material in the world to draw from; look around us at the acts committed everyday in the world – that we, our communities, politicians and bankers justify… what is justifiable? Ripper does beg the question, however, from whose perspective are you shown the series of events? And how does this influence our judgement of them? Susan is driven, due to the world she has suffered in and for, by a vision of a greater, safer, fairer world – an altruistic vision – which without her to ensure it’s manifestation will simply never materialise – not in the way she sees it.

She feels incredibly strongly that she needs to protect this vision. Also, she has been presented with information that makes her question the behaviour of Inspector Reid – and until she is certain his actions were innocent she will definitely NOT risk losing all she has strived so very hard for to protect him – but it’s not as if it doesn’t cost her…

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: Although I fully empathise with Susan’s history, ambition and protective loyalty towards her friends such as Rose Erskine, why can’t she forgive Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) despite his copious collection of flaws and certain peculiarities of temperament?

MyAnna: Come ON?!?! The love of her life, her husband – the only man she has ever truly loved – has due to his idiocy, gambling, and inability to take clear action (that doesn’t involve running away), forced her to essentially sell her body to the filthiest, most corrupt and vile human being in all of Whitechapel. I’m sure if you had that dirty corruption hammering away over you and into your body, taking physical and financial ownership of you, stripping you of your precious independence, turning the only small place of safety you had in the world to ruin, you would feel pretty resentful of the person who you feel helped make it happen… or perhaps you are more forgiving than Susan? Or perhaps Jackson’s sweet charms would mean you wouldn’t mind taking one for the team for him?

Damian: *Clears throat*

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

MyAnna: Having said all this there is and always will be an inexplicable bond between these two characters – that unquantifiable and mysterious connection, gravitational pull some people just have between them… so the question lingers will that ultimately pull them together despite the deep hurt between them? Or have the actions of the past cut scars too deep and wide to overcome?

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: It seems to me that almost all of Jackson’s actions leading up to the shocking climax of series two were made because of his love for you. There were some truly heartbreaking scenes between the two of you as evidenced in the following excerpts of dialogue between the two characters from the last year’s grand finale, Our Betrayal (by Richard Warlow):

SUSAN: A moment comes in a woman’s life when she may no longer deal in dreams. This? This is fantasy… or is it death? – and it might well be both. No. Captain Homer Jackson. Matthew Judge. Husband. No. I will have no more of you and your dreams. The world is what it is. And I must live with that.
JACKSON: Look, whatever it takes darling, till my blood be spilt, I will find what it takes to make you smile again. Only allow it. Allow me the opportunity, this opportunity.

Without any more pain to feel, has Long Susan Hart become the heartless or might she smile again?

MyAnna: I don’t think anyone ever becomes heartless, but the protective wall Susan has built around her heart, is thick and tall… She cannot allow herself to feel too deeply, because to do so is too painful…she wrestles with this, but, ultimately, the best she can hope for is to help those in need and less fortunate than herself, to create some kind of monument to make her existence worthwhile, and to protect herself, make herself infallible to all the people who threaten her independence, her dignity, and to the man who took her heart and smashed it to smithereens…

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: For me personally, and I’ve told you this before, one of the many pleasures of the show is watching the relationship between Susan and Rose, played so wonderfully by the voice of gaiety herself, Charlene McKenna. I remember thinking that one of the tragedies of cancelling Ripper Street, and I genuinely mean this, was the thought of your two characters not sharing the screen again. Did you and Charlene keep in touch during the show’s hiatus?

MyAnna: We are all aware of your soft spot for dear Rose and Charlene – we all share it with you and join the queue! She is simply joyful. Rose is one of Susan’s few close friends and luckily for me Charlene is one of mine. We all keep in touch – it is a very close show…

Damian: Charlene painted a wonderful portrait of the relationship you both share when she told me that the two of you “snot, sing and laugh all over each other”…

MyAnna: Yup – pretty much sums it up!

Damian: MyAnna, it is always a great pleasure and a privilege to do these interviews – thank you very much indeed.

MyAnna: Thank you.

~

Damian Michael Barcroft

~

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

All interviews and articles on this website are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015
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Christopher Lee: The last gentleman of horror

SO MANY FILMS. In the absence of real friends, lonely children may well compensate by surrounding themselves with obsessive collections and for me it was always cinema. Horror films were a particular favourite and so, therefore, growing up in the late seventies and early eighties, thanks to the betamax and then VHS, even in the darkest shadows of my childhood, I was surrounded by friends. If you’re reading this, chances are they were your friends too and I would like for us to remember them now.

In the days of only four television channels to choose from, Friday and Saturday were the best nights to meet new friends. I remember BBC1 or 2 would often resurrect horror double-bills on a Friday, usually a Hammer or Amicus, and Channel 4 had a spell of unleashing the Universal horrors on a Saturday. Covers pulled up tight and steaming hot chocolate in hand, some of the films were good and others, looking back, were positively shocking and not in a good way. All however, in the eyes of a pre-teenager at least, still awake long after his bedtime, were unforgettable and cherished classics. The faces of the people that I met on those Friday and Saturday nights, taped and then replayed endlessly, will be forever imprinted in my mind and, even now, they are as vivid to me as anyone that I have known in real life beyond the confines of a television or cinema screen. Those strong, distinct and ever perceptible faces belonged to Lon Chaney (both of them), Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. These were the friends that I never actually met. Except one…

chrislee4.jpgIn the summer of 2002, Christopher Lee was guest of honour for the grand opening of the Cinema Store in Nottingham. The second installments of both the Star Wars prequels and Lord of the Rings franchises were due for release that same year but Mr. Lee was also there to promote a new book written about him by Jonathan Rigby. The ping of the lift heralded his arrival and as the doors parted to reveal this icon of horror and fantasy cinema, it is no exaggeration to say that he was every bit as charismatic in person as he was on screen in countless mesmerizing roles. However, it must be said that I observed a certain lack of amusement from Mr. Lee as he was greeted with tedious and banal questions by fans as they queued to meet him. So when is Attack of the Clones released and what about The Two Towers? Not to mention his vexed expression when faced with endless questions regarding a certain vampire. It can be a daunting experience to meet your hero as it is but this did little to calm my nerves.

When it was finally my turn to make a fool of myself, I stuttered and mumbled something about how much I always wanted to meet him and Mr. Cushing and how much their work had meant to me as a child of those dark and aforementioned shadows. Perhaps sensing my nervous disposition, something rather wonderful happened and the most sorcerous of smiles appeared upon his face as he joked about how I’d have to wait until I travelled to the other side to meet dear Peter. Of course, I’d seen this smile many times before, usually when he was about to do something particularly cunning or diabolical on screen but this time it was warm and comforting, immediately putting an overly serious and introspective fan at ease. I shook his hand and said thank you. A fleeting moment, undoubtedly one of millions that Mr. Lee has had to put up with over the years but I will never forget the kindness and sensitivity with which he “handled” me.

chrislee2.jpgSo, if like me, you have spent immeasurable hours in the company of Mr. Lee, or at least his remarkable legacy of films, you will feel a great sense of loss today. Sir Christopher Lee has died. He has gone to the other side. He was the last true gentleman of horror. Perhaps when it is my turn to travel to other side, we shall meet again – both Mr. Lee, and indeed, Mr. Cushing – those happiest of screen enemies.

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CROCODILES IN CREAM

Kevin Moore as Lewis Carroll

CROCODILES IN CREAM

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland

~ An exclusive interview by Damian Michael Barcroft ~

croc3Damian: Can you please tell me about the genesis of Crocodiles in Cream and how you became involved with the play?

Kevin: I’d worked for David Horlock who was the Artistic Director of the Salisbury Playhouse in quite a few of his productions – Alan Bennett’s 4O YEARS ON, Sheridan Morley’s NOEL & GERTIE, Martin Sherman’s BENT,  IVOR a musical he wrote about Novello. Then he offered me CROCODILES IN CREAM. I’d never even considered doing a solo show but it is such a beautiful piece of work and David directed it marvellously. I still refer to the notes he gave me during rehearsals.

Damian: The play draws its inspiration from Carroll’s diaries, letters, poems and stories but I’m wondering what you found to be the most revealing bit of research as an actor attempting to get inside the mind of such a complex character?

Kevin: What he himself said when scholars attempted to analyse his work and sought some hidden moral, or maybe political satire:”I’m very much afraid I didn’t mean anything more than nonsense”. Fabulous, clever nonsense which flowed from an extraordinary intellect.

croc7croc4Damian: The title of the play references Carroll’s poem from his novel Sylvie and Bruno (originally published in two volumes 1889 & 1893) in which there are two plots, one that reveals the real world of Victorian Britain and the other that is firmly rooted in Fairytale Land with a fantastical element, while Alice in Wonderland is a surreal and fragmented journey – might these descriptions echo the structure or premise of Crocodiles in Cream?

Kevin:  I’ve never been able to get along with SYLVIE AND BRUNO. The play certainly depicts the strict Victorian life he led and some of his chafing against it.The fantastical element? ALICE, the stories, games, puzzles were all created, I think, to entertain and amuse and keep his beloved child friends. Quite often it would be something the child had said that would start a story so the child felt it belonged to them. There was a book published in the thirties which was a compilation of memories by 70 year old ladies who had all been entertained by Carroll when they were children. All recalled  joyous, happy experiences!

Damian: Crocodiles in Cream does not shy away from the controversy that continues to surround Carroll’s friendship with the Liddell family but how would you describe his relationship with the young Alice?

Kevin: He was indeed distressed by the problems with the Liddells. But apparently he’d lampooned the socially ambitious Mrs Liddell in a college magazine. Which didn’t go down well. Plus that he’d thrown his hat in the ring as a potential husband for Alice. Doubtful. Suspect he was a confirmed bachelor. He once said “my child friendships get shipwrecked at the critical point where the stream and the river meet and the child friends once so affectionate become uninteresting acquaintances, whom I have no wish to set eyes on again”. Surprisingly harsh for such a gentle man.

croc6Damian: There is still quite a lot that we don’t know about his Carroll, a problem that is often aggravated by lazy and repetitive research not to mention ludicrous myths – perhaps most bizarrely that he was Jack the Ripper! However, my own personal inclination is to try and understand him as two separate identities, an idea emboldened by both his real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and his more well-known pseudonym and pen name, Lewis Carroll. What do you think of the notion that there were personal conflicts and contradictions in his character and that Dodgson represents the logical mathematician and Oxford don while Carroll reveals a more child-like persona who enjoyed the company of children with whom he could indulge in fantasy and escapism?

Kevin: He was hugely complex. As Dodgson brilliant, petty, impatient, devout, afflicted by shyness, a clever mathematician but not a very charismatic or popular lecturer.

Carroll seemed to enjoy a much happier life. Always with children. The seaside holidays with them approved by their parents. Pantomime outings. The photographic sessions dressing them up in lots of costumes. I think he felt safe with children. He himself said “….the awe that falls on one in the presence of a spirit fresh from God’s hands, on whom no shadow of sin or sorrow has yet fallen.” Which is a beautiful definition.

croc5Damian: Some scholars have even suggested that he may have suffered from borderline personality disorder (BPD) or split-personality. Indeed, I was intrigued to compare what we know of Carroll and the symptoms as defined for government guidelines by the National Institute of Health Care and Excellence (NICE) including having “emotions that are up and down with feelings of emptiness and often anger”, finding it “difficult to make and maintain relationships” and an “unstable sense of identity such as thinking differently about yourself depending on who you are with”. To what extent do you think these and alternate personality symptoms such a stammer, being possessive and overly organized might further our understanding of Carroll?

Kevin: Don’t really know how to answer this properly. The stammer started at Rugby School and there are some possible explanations for this. It was TOM BROWN’S SCHOOLDAYS time! He was a shy, unsporty boy and was probably bullied. He had been wrenched from a large happy family and the love of adoring sisters. Very much the family star. The stammer never happened with children. Apparently, he never had a close, intimate relationship with an adult. Of course, as an Ordained Deacon he was a celibate.

Damian: You are a prolific actor across theatre, film and television but I’m wondering what it is about you that directors find irresistible when casting reverends, priests and monks?

Kevin: I don’t know about irresistible! But you’re right. I have played a lot of clerics. Perhaps it’s because TV and film scriptwriters so often make priests Irish. I’m Irish so I got the jobs. But it happens in the theatre too. I was Parson Maybold in UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE, Father Mullarkey in ONCE A CATHOLIC, Canon Chasuble in a musical of THE IMPORTANCE called HANDBAG!

I was an altar boy. Maybe it still shows.

Damian: As someone who worships Father Ted, can I ask you to share some of your memories filming the much-loved comedy?

Kevin: It was a completely original beautifully written show with four supremely talented principals. Shooting was easy, happy, no agonising or problems. Everyone knew they were in something special. But couldn’t have imagined its success would continue for so long. There are now FATHER TED societies in Irish universities. I’d worked with my two fellow bishops already so we were friends and had great larks in Ennis. Sadly, both of them have died.

Damian: Why do you think we are still talking about Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland 150 years after it was published?

Kevin: Apparently after the Bible and Shakespeare ALICE is the most quoted.

Someone said – Miss Woolf again? – “The two ALICES are not books for children, they are the only books in which we become children.” Maybe it’s as simple as that.

Damian: I wish you every success with Crocodiles in Cream. Thank you very much indeed Kevin.

Kevin: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

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Please visit the following official website for more information on Crocodiles in Cream:

http://www.crocodilesincream.com/index.html

Forthcoming Performances:

10th June – CAST Theatre, Doncaster

www.castindoncaster.com

11th June – Alnwick Playhouse

www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk

13th June – Walker Theatre, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury

www.theatresevern.co.uk

17th June – Sundial Theatre, Cirencester

www.sundial-theatre.co.uk

18th June – Clapham Omnibus, London

www.omnibus-clapham.org

19th and 20th June – Mill Studio – Guildford Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk

6th August – the Granary Theatre, Wells-Next-the-Sea

www.granarytheatre.co.uk

7th August – the Barn Theatre, Smallhythe

www.ellenterrybarntheatre.co.uk

8th August – Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

www.maddermarket.co.uk

12th August – Linen Hall Library, Belfast

www.linenhall.com

17th to 12th September – Javea Players Studio, Spain

www.javeaplayers.com

17th September – Mumford Theatre, Cambridge

ww2.anglia.ac.uk

19th September – Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, North Yorkshire

www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk

8th October – East Finchley Arts Festival

www.eastfinchleyars.ticketsource.co.uk

23rd October – Angles Theatre, Wisbech

www.anglestheatre.co.uk

24th October – Sarah Thorne Theatre, Broadstairs

www.sarahthorne-theatrecompany.co.uk

HOUSEOFGHOSTSposter

HOUSE OF GHOSTS

Baroque Theatre Company’s Production of Alma Cullen’s play

Inspired by the Inspector Morse novels of Colin Dexter

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In an exclusive interview, Damian Michael Barcroft talks to producer and founder of the Baroque Theatre Company, Claire Bibby, director Adam Morley and award-winning actor, Nigel Fairs who plays Chief Inspector Morse.

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Damian: Baroque is a professional touring theatre company founded in 2010 and based in Norwich. Can you tell me a little about the genesis of the company and something of its ethos please?

Claire: We are passionate about our craft and thrive on bringing inventive and high quality theatre to regional theatre venues. Our casts and crews are energetic teams of creative individuals, committed to engaging audiences with vibrant and captivating entertainment. Our goal is to generate a “renaissance” in local theatre, performing a wide range of genres from revitalised classics to exciting new writing, from comedy to drama. Our ethos is to build the company on a repertory style, whereby a core team of actors and crew remain associated with the company. We are proud to have the opportunity to contribute to East Anglia’s rich and flourishing base for arts and culture. We take our touring shows to all parts of the UK and perform in a vast range of different spaces and venues.

Adam: Baroque is creating quality entertainment, traditional story telling, going out across the country with reasonable pricing, aiming to make theatre and live entertainment accessible and affordable to all. We want to entertain not only regular theatre goers but also attract new people to theatre with a wide range of productions including Inspector Morse House of Ghosts which is our most exciting show to date.

Damian: Your previous productions include The Haunting of Hill House, Veronica’s Room, Great Expectations and most recently, Sherlock Holmes. Why did you choose House of Ghosts as your next production and what attracted you to the world of Inspector Morse?

Claire: Morse is a complex, fascinating character with many layers to his personality that we very much wanted to bring to the theatre audience. There is only one stage play written about this iconic sleuth by Alma Cullen and so we felt privileged to be granted the professional touring license in order to bring this wonderful story to regional theatre venues.

Adam: The chance to be part of the Morse cannon, part of a rich history and walk in the footsteps of giants is extremely exciting.  The opportunity to explore this deeply complex and flawed human character is a real honour. Having new insights into Morse’s past and what shaped him has been a real treat.

Damian: Alma Cullen is a prolific writer who actually wrote for the original Inspector Morse television series* (1987 – 2000). Can you tell us about the story and her particular interpretation of Morse and Lewis in House of Ghosts?

Claire: The plot delves deep into Morse’s history as a student in Oxford, reuniting him with ‘ghosts’ from his past. Giving us an insight into some of the events which shaped Morse’s life in years to come. A real treat for the Morse fan. Our Morse in House of Ghosts is in his late forties and the play is set in the 1980’s. He is still developing his persona and traits at this stage of life and the character in the play presents a bridge between the characters in the TV series of Endeavour & Morse.

Adam: We find Morse at a crossroads in his personal and professional life. The show is about obsessions and as the title suggests it reveals previously unknown or little known aspects of Morse’s past.  Similarly we see the depth of relationship between Morse and Lewis as the faithful and tenacious Sergeant tries to keep Morse focused and on track.

Damian: And the stage-within-a-stage concept?

Claire: The play opens with a performance from Hamlet, when Ophelia dies suddenly mid-performance. Inspector Morse is immediately on the scene, having been in the audience. The stage is cordoned off and becomes a fully-fledged murder scene. In the opening scene, the audience are watching events unfold from backstage.  The stories then unfold in a more traditional manner on stage.

Adam: This lovely concept by the incredibly talented and humble Alma Cullen (I have never worked with such a supportive and encouraging writer) allows us to keep the pace flowing beautifully and create a wonderful mixture of different locations including the Theatre. As a director this has been a wonderful challenge transferring what has worked so well on television to the stage.

Damian: Morse enthusiasts may recall the first production of House of Ghosts back in 2010 with former Doctor Who Colin Baker in the role of the Inspector. Are there significant changes in your adaptation?

Claire: Adam has worked closely with Alma to bring a fresh interpretation of this production which we hope will delight Morse enthusiasts as much as we have enjoyed working on it.

Adam: Alma has been amazing and has allowed us to restructure some of the scenes to better suit a theatrical production. We have together gone back to a much earlier draft of the script allowing for even more character development and revelation. The previous incarnation of the show had many short sharp scenes. We have a different pace allowing for a more linear approach and greater plot and background development. It is a true honour to have been allowed so much freedom with such iconic characters. We have always at every step respected the writers and the cannon; this version is faithful and shows a more vulnerable Morse in all his glory brilliantly portrayed by Nigel Fairs.

HOUSEOFGHOSTS2Damian: In comparison to Colin Baker, the casting of Nigel Fairs as Morse is certainly more in keeping with that of Shaun Evans in Endeavour, is this something that you took into consideration?

Claire: Adam will be better able to explain from a Director’s casting point of view. Nigel was able to portray the characteristics we were looking for with skill and flair as well as putting his own stamp on the performance. There is always a risk if an actor’s performance is a carbon copy of a famous actor’s portrayal of an iconic figure such as Morse. With Nigel’s wide spanning experience, versatility and expertise he was able to nod to the character appropriately whilst making it the role his own.

Adam: Casting Morse was the hardest casting challenge of my professional career. Not only did we need to find an actor with the ability to portray this deeply complex individual , we needed to respect and understand the other interpretations and allow our incredibly talented Morse room to grow into the role which he has done magnificently. After the long search we then needed approval from Alma and Colin Dexter, there was no hesitation on their part with our choice. We absolutely kept in mind suitability of the actor and ensured we had found absolutely the right man for the job in keeping with the narrative age and development of the character between Morse and Endeavour.

houseofghosts3Damian: To what extent does the play attempt to bridge the gap between Endeavour (1965 onwards) and Inspector Morse (1987 – 2000)?

Adam: The play itself sits in-between and shows us Morse a Chief Inspector torn between two worlds; academia and the Police. We meet a Morse who is in the throes of internal conflict when new opportunities arise to possibly change direction. In this show you see how he ultimately progresses form the young man in the Endeavour days into the classic Morse we all know and love as played by the late great John Thaw. It is a glimpse of a crucial moment in his development – does he want to be a policeman anymore as the ghosts from his past just a few years previous to Endeavour come back to haunt him.

Nigel: When I first got the part, I vowed to myself not to watch either the incredible John Thaw or Shaun Evans (I’ve yet to see Endeavour) until I’d finished the tour, as it would have been so tempting to try to imitate their performances.  I’ve known and worked with Colin Baker for years and I even resisted asking him how he’d played the part! I felt it was really important to find the truth of the Morse we see in this play and to create my own “version”.  I would hope that I’ve done just that, and feel really honoured to have been given the opportunity of being one of only four actors to play him. Like the lucky actors who’ve played Doctor Who or James Bond, I now feel like I’m a member of a very privileged club!

Damian: I’ve interviewed and discussed Endeavour many times with its writer and executive producer, Russell Lewis, and one of the challenges was reconciling certain discrepancies between Colin Dexter’s thirteen Morse novels plus his various short stories** and the thirty-three episodes of the original TV series – specifically, Morse’s childhood and college days. Since your plot also delves into Morse’s past and student life in Oxford, I was wondering whether you have been either helped or hindered by the enormous success of Endeavour in terms of your own creative freedom in exploring the character?

Adam: It has been a great help. Firstly it introduced the character to a whole new audience who may not have known about Morse and has hopefully lead to them reading the books and seeing the original TV series. Secondly it has given us in our research and development so much more source material and inspirations to consider.  This production is very much its own unique story set in the Morse universe showing us a character we know and love in a truly harrowing and complex investigation with deep personal ramifications to the character. It has many influences but I am extremely proud of how we have made it our own whilst always respecting what has gone before and being true to it. The incredibly talented cast lead by Nigel has worked in their own various ways to achieve the characterisations with my guidance. This is I hope a true treat for fans of the ever growing and ever popular Morse universe.

Nigel: Like I said, I have yet to watch Endeavour but I’m itching to watch both that and the classic Morse episodes as soon as I’ve finished the tour!

HOUSEOFGHOSTS1Damian: Does your production of House of Ghosts explicitly address Morse’s early love life and why he left college?

Adam:  Yes it does in detail; revealing previously unknown events that shaped Morse.  We discover some of the reasons why he left and what his thinking was at the time…these events play an integral part of the plot.

Nigel: This is exactly his struggle.  What I love about the plot is that Morse gets it wrong, despite having all the evidence about the truth presented to him early on. He’s desperately trying to be the professional but that terrible time back at college is constantly clouding his vision.

HOUSEOFGHOSTS4Damian: Can you tell us about your own particular interpretation of Morse and how you prepared for the role?

Nigel: My favourite – and in a way, most vital – bit of “research” came when I read a passage in Colin Dexter’s short story As Good as Gold. It was the first time I’d truly seen into Morse’s head, as depicted by his creator.  Reacting to Strange, Morse thinks:

“Seven – or was it eight? – “she”s.  With one or two “her”s thrown in for good measure? Yet in spite of the bewildering proliferation of those personal pronouns (feminine), Morse had found himself able to follow the story adequately, feeling gently amused as he pictured the (now) grossly overweight Superintendent as a podgy but obviously pious little cherub happily burbling to his baby-sitter.”

That passage nailed it for me, and not only because that’s more or less exactly what goes on in my own head most of the time (usually accompanied by the most amazing incidental music score; another similarity to Morse)! As I move through House of Ghosts as Morse, there isn’t a single second where I’m not analysing other characters’ speech patterns, imagining outcomes or possible motives, chastising Lewis (and other characters) for their incorrect use of grammar… But all the time being thwarted and distracted by the HUGE emotional resonance of the Past Events that have resurfaced. Morse is in mental turmoil here, which is a joy (if exhausting) to play.

HOUSEOFGHOSTS6Damian: How would you describe the relationship between your Morse and Lewis (played by Ivan Wilkinson) in the early days of their partnership?

Nigel: I adore Ivan Wilkinson, and his beautifully detailed and layered performance of Lewis is a joy to play opposite.  I think that between us we’ve managed to come up with a fascinating relationship that constantly blurs the line between “mentor” and “student”. They both have such a lot to learn from each other. Without spoiling the plot, there are a wonderful couple of scenes in the second act where we see exactly how much they need each other to work as a team, or even individually.

Damian: What will the next Baroque production be after you’ve finished touring with House of Ghosts in May?

Claire: We will be touring with two productions from November 2015 – January 2016. Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Carol by John Longenbaugh and The Great Santa Kidnap by Roy Chatfield. Our exciting programme for the remainder of 2016 will be announced soon!

Adam: In addition to those shows with Baroque Theatre Company, I’ll be directing The Birds based on the Hitchcock film and Du Maurier book in a co production with Baroque. I will also be directing a Moliere (in French) in London and Paris and then moving onto The Canterbury Tales.

Damian: Claire, Adam and Nigel, thank you very much indeed.

 ~~~

*Alma Cullen’s Morse episodes: The Secret of Bay 5B (1989), The Infernal Serpent (1990), Fat Chance (1991) and The Death of the Self (1992).

**Colin Dexter himself wrote about Morse’s background and history in Mr. E. Morse, BA Oxon (Failed) also known by its original title, Morse and the Mystery of the Drunken Driver, a short story published in 2008 by the Daily Mail as part of a Christmas serial special.

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

HOUSEOFGHOSTS8House of Ghosts continues its tour throughout April and May at the following venues:
WEDNESDAY 29TH APRIL 7.30PM
CYGNET THEATRE, FRIARS GATE, EXETER EX2 4AZ
Box Office: 01392 277189
http://www.cygnettheatre.co.uk/theatre-exeter-arts-entertainment-whats-on/
THURSDAY 30TH APRIL 7.30PM
WEYMOUTH PAVILION
Box Office: 01305 783225
http://www.weymouthpavilion.com/page40.html#Morse
FRIDAY 1ST & SATURDAY 2ND MAY 7.30PM
FISHER THEATRE, BUNGAY
Box Office: 01986 897130
http://www.fishertheatre.org/Event.htm?date=201504011930&
WEDNESDAY 6TH MAY 7.30PM
THE REGAL THEATRE, MINEHEAD
Box Office:01643 706430
http://regaltheatre.co.uk/show/house-of-ghosts/
SATURDAY 9TH MAY  7.30PM
THE PLOWRIGHT THEATRE, SCUNTHORPE
Box Office: 0844 8542776
https://tickets.scunthorpetheatres.co.uk/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=28090
TUESDAY 12TH MAY 7.30PM
POMEGRANATE THEATRE, CHESTERFIELD
Box Office: 01246 345222
http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk/shows/inspector-morse-house-of-ghosts.aspx#.VTtv5fBm21o
FRIDAY 15TH MAY 7.30PM
THE GUILDHALL, LEICESTER
Box Office: 0116 2532569
http://www.leicester.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums-and-galleries
SATURDAY 16TH MAY 7.30PM
THE TOWER THEATRE, FOLKESTONE
Box Office: 01303 223925
http://www.towertheatrefolkestone.co.uk/event/house-of-ghosts/

~

bogartsgin02

BOGART’S GIN NOW AVAILABLE TO BUY IN THE UK

As Bogart’s Gin launches in the US next month, there’s good news for Bogie fans in the UK too as you can now buy bottles directly from ROK Drinks.

You can buy 1 X 70cl bottle for £30 including VAT and delivery to a UK mainland address or 1 X case (6 bottles) for £150 (£25 per bottle) also including VAT and delivery. Please note that this is for UK residents aged 18+ only. More information can be found on the link below:

http://www.bogartspirits.com/shop/

bogartsgin01Read my exclusive interview with Bruce Renny, head of marketing at ROK Drinks and Robbert de Klerk, co-managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate below:

http://dmbarcroft.com/bogarts-gin/

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Ripper Street interview with Toby Finlay

NOTE: This interview contains spoilers that are best avoided until you have seen the first three episodes of Ripper Street Series III

This is how Grandmother will tell the story, a hundred years hence:

Exposed unto the sea, which hath requit it,
Him and his innocent child; for which foul deed
The powers, delaying, not forgetting, have
Incensed the seas and shores, yea, all the creatures…

The Tempest – III.3

Talking Cure & Chimney Sweeping

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with Toby Finlay

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015
Images copyright © Toby Finlay/Will Gould
Toby Finlay and Richard Warlow

Toby Finlay and Richard Warlow

Damian: Toby, you have written the following episodes of Ripper Street: The Weight of One Man’s Heart (Series 1. Episode 5), Tournament of Shadows (1.6), Threads of Silk and Gold (2.5), A Stronger Loving World (2.6), The Beating of Her Wings (3.2) and Ashes and Diamonds (3.3) not to mention your collaboration in devising the overarching story. You are therefore, the most prolific of cuckoos in Richard Warlow’s nest. How so?

Toby: Well, I suppose you’d have to ask Richard that question. We knew each other from before Ripper Street was even a twinkle and we’d got along and had a mutual respect, but it was during Ripper that we found our writing was simpatico in a lot of ways and intriguingly different in others. I think we pushed each other a bit over the three seasons, and it’s always good to be working with someone you want to beat.

Damian: To what extent was the aforementioned overarching story and individual plots for series three planned prior to the news of Ripper Street’s cancellation last December?

Toby: Back in September 2013 – before the cancellation – Richard and I (along with Joe Donaldson our superb script-editor and Will Gould, the exec producer and godfather of the show) went off to a hotel in the countryside for a few days and started throwing ideas around. What we storylined were the big beats of the first four episodes. We had the bones of the stories to a greater extent in some episodes than others. (For instance ep 3 with the clairvoyant was just something we kept bandying around as a joke about a dead clairvoyant who didn’t see it coming, and it was very much later that I realised there was actually a story in there, so I kept the line as a little in-joke). And then, as we were all set to work deeper on the stories and Richard and I were primed to commence eps 1 and 2 – the show was axed. So everything was on ice. It was only in February or so of this year that we got the green light again and suddenly realised we had to work out those stories and indeed the rest of the series.

But the shorter answer is, we knew we wanted the train crash – that was something Richard had harboured for a while, I think – and to bring back Mathilda. And to make this overarching story Reid versus Susan, really put them both through the ringer. We certainly wanted to make Susan at the fore of this narrative and give her a sort of Breaking Bad journey into darkness. So the core of series 3 was definitely planned prior to the axe, even though the individual stories were very much in gestation and much of the work came after Amazon saved us.

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Richard Cookson, Will Gould, Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay

Damian: I find it difficult to believe that series three would have begun four years later in 1894 if the show hadn’t have been cancelled at the end of its second series. There must have been sacrifices made in terms of story and certain characters?

Toby: Actually the time jump was always the plan. I’m not sure we’d settled in 1894 specifically but there was definitely the intention of leaving a few years for the characters to have developed or sunk or fallen apart in the intervening time. Luckily, everyone who we wanted to bring back was willing to come back. The end of series 2 was such a cliffhanger that it felt unexpected to drive forward in time like that. And if it’s unexpected, it’s interesting.

Damian: And were there any creative conditions imposed by Amazon?

Toby: None. In fact they were keen to exploit the lack of scheduling or watershed restrictions, which is why the Amazon versions are longer and in some cases more explicit in language and image than the versions which will eventually screen on the BBC. The Amazon versions are, if you will, more like the “writers’ cuts”.

Damian: Before we turn our attention to your two episodes for series three, I wanted to follow up on an issue that troubled me from our previous interview when I asked you to what extent the views of Faulkner (the antagonist from The Weight of One Man’s Heart) might reflect your own personal political ideology and you respectfully declined to answer. While I respect your decision to keep your politics to yourself, I was disappointed that you went on to say that your own personal views as a writer are not important. Would an interview, for example, with Stanley Kubrick regarding Dr. Strangelove or A Clockwork Orange not be enhanced by a discussion of his political ideology or perhaps a discourse on the protest genre and radicalism with Bob Dylan?

Toby: Kubrick and Dylan were/are notoriously tricky interview-f*****s who would refuse point blank to be pinned down. I’m sure an interview with Dylan about the protest genre and radicalism would be thrilling, but you won’t find one. You’ll find him telling you to keep a good head and always carry a light-bulb.

I stand by what I said last time, which is that I write partly to play with ideas and weave masks… but you can assume generally that I wouldn’t put fire behind the writing of it unless on some level I believed in it. Beyond that: read the tale, not the teller.

fink5Damian: And from politics, we naturally move on to religion. A wise man once wrote that a man without faith is a man without hope. For comedic effect or otherwise, you have sometimes portrayed yourself as a “Bad Jew”, do you entertain any particular religion or spirituality?

Toby: I believe in Larry David.

Damian: There is actually a valid reason that I ask you this but rather than repeat previously documented material, I would direct the reader to our original interview with reference to your visual fetish with birds. However, I would like to explore the possible psychology behind such riffs pertaining to winged creatures in more depth and point out that in The Beating of Her Wings alone, the following are referenced either visually on screen, spoken through dialogue or described in possible wordplay or puns through action notes: cockerel, capon, rookery, vultures, swallow, lark, pupa, butterflies, fairies as well as a parrot outside the exotic bird shop adjoining H Buckley: Antiquities & Curiosities and also mention of da Vinci (famed for his human-powered ornithopter designs and possibly the first European interested in a practical solution to flight).

So, back to the original question of spirituality which can manifest itself in a variety of different ways from organised religion to the more personal such as private prayer or reflection, meditation or yoga. Given that our brain processes sensory experiences, it is inevitable that we will look for patterns and pursue their meaning. To what extent would you give credence to the following interpretations?: the pre-totemistic soul-belief of the Semang and other tribes believed the bird was one of the earliest of spirit animals which had to be killed so as to release the soul, the Holy Egyptian bird was a symbol of resurrection, transformation and immortality, mediating between the earthly realm and the heavenly world – perhaps the human soul undergoing spiritual development, the soul’s desire for transcendence or desire to escape (freeing a bird from captivity as was the case in The Weight of One Man’s Heart relating to the release of one’s own emotions or primal energies) and for Freud, birds were obviously carnal symbols representing the penis…

Toby: They’re penises. All of them.

I have no problem with any interpretation. I am apparently drawn to birds for some reason, as we discussed in the last interview. The imagery and… I suppose the word is “symbolism”… speak to me. But I couldn’t tell you what they say exactly. I try to feel the pulse of whatever I’m writing and sometimes if I feed it with interesting things it will throw back interesting things in return. I remember reading an interview with Paul Auster a long time ago about his brilliant novel Moon Palace, when he was asked a similar question about the imagery and language of the moon, which is everywhere in the book. And he said, basically, that some of it is deliberate and some of it happily accidental – but borne of the fact that you’ve harboured these ideas and notions for a long time, and so certain elements of language and image will just find their way to forming connections and spilling out onto the page.

Damian: Was the appearance of the aforementioned parrot a visual allusion to the historical Edmund Reid and his eccentric future in Hampton-on-Sea?

Toby: Yes.

Damian: You’ve told me in the past that character is the key thing for you as a writer and if it came down to choosing between compromising the integrity of a character’s story or bending history, you would always choose to sacrifice the history. Obviously Ripper Street is not a documentary, however, I thought it was clever of Richard to incorporate the history of Joseph Merrick and the timeline of his death (2.1: Pure as the Driven and 2.2: Am I Not Monstrous?) into the events of series two without deviating too far from the known facts and remaining true to the man, the character’s psychology and motivations. In complete contrast to this however, and I speak with specific reference to Reid’s actions towards the end of series two and the shocking climax of The Beating of Her Wings, is there not a moral argument to be made against possibly changing the perception and reputation of real characters from history?

Toby: That’s an interesting point, and I think there absolutely is a moral issue. In fact I have a general rule that I won’t do biopics or true stories because I feel very uncomfortable about the dramatic liberties that are invariably required. I mean, I’ve seen some great biopics or factual dramas. But I have a problem with approaching that kind of material myself.

However, the Reid of Ripper is very much a fictional construct who happens to share a name with the Reid of history. I have deliberately never even read a biography of the real Reid, which is perhaps how I handled the issue I just mentioned. So in other words I just hid my head in the sand for my own moral convenience.

fink3Damian: So Richard and yourself have never been creatively constricted by the destiny and historical events of characters such as Reid and Fred Abberline in terms of telling your story?

Toby: No. At least I never felt constricted. I realise what I’m saying seems to run directly counter to what I said to your previous question. But I never claimed to be anything more than a confused mess of contradictions.

Damian: There are several omitted scenes from The Beating of Her Wings, which is often the case with writing for films and television where there is always a pressure to adhere to certain running times. The first cut of some episodes (such as your A Stronger Loving World) can be as long as eighty minutes which then have to be whittled down to sixty for the final cut. I’m particularly curious about scene seventy (from TBOHW) but can you also give us a flavour of what we will unfortunately never see from your two episodes for series three?

Toby: No. It doesn’t matter. I’m not sure what scene 70 was and I don’t want to return to the script now. It’s made, it’s done, it’s gone. It was probably something transcendentally awesome but I don’t want to look back. We shark onward, to meet the next black wave with teeth bared.

Damian: The themes and motifs of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, including power and control, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness, not to mention Ariel, a spirit of the air!, were well-suited to The Beating of Her Wings (as was the case with Antony and Cleopatra and The Weight of One Man’s Heart) and beautifully interwoven throughout your script. It strikes me as an inspired and profound analogy and yet there is almost an element of inevitability surrounding its use as though it had been part of a shared vision from the very beginning.  At what point in the genesis of this episode did it become apparent that there was such a close connection to water and sea creating disaster in the lives of the main characters in both The Tempest and Ripper Street?

Toby: The story of Reid and his catastrophe on the boat with Mathilda – and therefore the notion of water as nightmarish – obviously goes back to the beginning of the show, but the Tempest parallels and motifs came about only as I was writing The Beating of Her Wings. I’m not sure exactly at what point it occurred to me, but all of that was very deliberate. I suppose it was similar to the process of The Weight of One Man’s Heart in that there was a stage during the composition where I realised I was riffing on certain things – in this case water and fairies – and I wanted to throw The Tempest in. I do these things largely for myself because… I don’t know. I suppose it keeps it interesting for me to make these connections.

Damian: In addition to The Tempest, we can’t ignore other possible references although I’m not sure to what extent they are all intentional or not. There is a certain young lady named Alice who is introduced in The Beating of Her Wings who previously went by the name Mathilda which just so happens to be the same nickname of one of Alice Liddell’s sisters (Tillie, short for Matilda was Edith Liddell’s actual nickname).

There is also the matter of the caterpillar but in your second episode, Ashes and Diamonds, you also have Alice say to Long Susan Hart, “You’re the Queen around here” (thus Hart becomes the Queen of Hearts). Additionally we have various riffs on mirrors and their reflections (perhaps for the benefit of those in the cheap seats Alice also remarks, “So many looking glasses”) referencing Carroll’s second Alice story, Through the Looking Glass, which features a chessboard and is indeed structured like a game of chess in terms of its narrative – you also make copious allusions to Kings, Queens and pawns throughout both of your episodes. Furthermore, and if that were not enough, it would be remiss of me not to remind the reader that Lewis Carroll has since become a Jack the Ripper suspect – albeit an extremely unlikely one. Curious to say in the least or are some of these observations the ramblings of a pretentious madman?

Toby: No. All of that was deliberate layering and weaving. But it’s also Moon Palace syndrome again. Some things happen unconsciously and then you realise it and follow those new threads down… well, down the rabbit-hole I suppose. But as with the Tempest references, this sort of game-playing is a thing I do, for myself and for whoever might wish to grab the strands.

fink1Damian: There are also at least two references to King Arthur (in Ashes and Diamonds) but I particularly wanted to ask you about “the Wicked King” (The Beating of Her Wings) which Alice is so afraid of. I did a little digging and found the Romanic folktale entitled The Wicked King: Tales from the Lands of Nuts and Grapes (published in 1888 – such a memorable year!) and also The Tale of the Wicked King: A Story from the Field of Blackbirds (1915) which contains the following extract: “So he (the Wicked King) kept on, as long as the horse would go, even farther into the snow-covered wilderness of the mountain, until he was lost to human sight.” For me, this certainly resonates within the context of TBOHW but what is their significance to you?

Toby: I’m delighted those books exist but I didn’t know of them. What I did know about was the general obsession with fairies and fairytales which pervaded parts of Victorian culture and I wanted to engage with it. The Wicked King was something that sounded right to me, but as far as I knew it was something I’d conjured. If it was provoked by anything it was probably – though I’ve only just thought about it – the Yellow King in True Detective.

Damian: Why do you insist on having characters speak the episode titles, either word for word or phrased slightly differently, through their dialogue?

Toby: Actually this is a Warlow tic. I think he got it from Deadwood. It was something that I was not only always indifferent to but in fact ended up sailing against twice. There are only two episodes, as far as I know, where the title is not spoken verbatim – and they’re both mine. One is A Stronger Loving World, which is ALMOST but not quite spoken. The other is Ashes and Diamonds, where the title is not actually spoken but is engraved on the silver pocket watch which Olivia once gifted her husband and shows Drake. You can just about make it out if you freeze frame the close up of the watch.

Damian: Series three is rattling along at a staggering pace and many plot strands from the previous two years are being resolved surprisingly quickly. Is there a sense that both you and Richard are bidding farewell to Whitechapel?

Toby: Well. I can’t speak for Richard. And his connection to this show is longer and deeper than mine. But for my own part… Yes, I think that melancholic, valedictory tone in Ashes and Diamonds was not accidental.

fink3Damian: Again, I would direct the reader to our previous interview [see link below], but I’m pleased to see your fascination with the Western endures (mainly through the character of Captain Homer Jackson) and there are references to the genre in Ashes and Diamonds. Also, as I’ve told you before, I particularly enjoy your affinity with the character and in A Stronger Loving World, Jackson says to Reid, “This entire day can kiss my holiest of holies… First, I’m gonna drink this. Then I’m gonna throw up. And then, (reaching for another bottle) I’m gonna drink this. And then I’m gonna pass out. Now, you wanna make use of my brain, do it now.”

This is pure Toby Finlay – won’t you miss writing for Jackson?

Toby: F*****g right I will. I’ll miss a great deal about writing for Ripper. Not only the key characters, but writing for those actors is a privilege I don’t know if I’ll experience again. I mean, I hope I’ll work with Matthew, Jerome, Myanna, Charlene and Rothenberg again – but probably not all together.

Amid all of that, though, the character who comes most naturally to me with his self-loathing and rage and bottomless romantic yearning is Jackson, and I have never before experienced a professional pleasure that comes close to writing that stuff and seeing Rothenberg nail it like the drawling dirt-bag he is.

fink5Damian: Given our references to pupa and the butterfly, might your decision not to work on Ripper Street again mark something of a chrysalis and the transformation of your own career as a writer?

Toby: I don’t know. I just feel like it’s time to do other things. I’d never written television before Ripper, and now I’m going back to writing film for a while and I feel like I’m having to learn to write film all over again.… So… I don’t know. The uncertainty and terror is useful, an electric shock out of complacency.

fink1Damian: Of all the episodes that you’ve written, what do you consider to be your greatest contribution to Ripper Street?

Toby: In terms of contribution, you’d need to ask Warlow. It’s his show. But since you’re asking me…

I think The Weight of One Man’s Heart was a significant episode for Ripper in that it was the first ep in which the crime story intertwined deeply with an intense personal drama for one of our main characters; and a lot of Drake’s backstory and his own dark myth came into being through the composition of that episode. I think that ep made both Warlow and I take a slightly shifted angle on the show as a whole.

Damian: And so we come to end of our final Ripper Street interview. Toby, on behalf of the birds, butterflies and indeed all the winged creatures, I wanted to say that Whitechapel will be a less interesting place without you in it. I admire your talent and I appreciate your inspiration. So long cowboy.

Toby: Keep a good head, friend. And always carry a lightbulb.

~

“O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”

~

My first interview with Toby can be found below:

http://dmbarcroft.com/an-exclusive-interview-with-writer-toby-finlay/

All interviews and articles on this website are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

~~~

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ROSEclose.jpg

Ripper Street Interview with Charlene McKenna

Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask you now to give your full attention to the voice of gaiety – Miss Charlene McKenna…

QUEEN OF THE COSTERS

An exclusive ‘Ripper Street’ interview by Damian Michael Barcroft

Damian: Before we address Ripper business, congratulations on the award-winning production of Richard Eyre’s version of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. Indeed, the production was so successful that you not only took Ghosts to the West End, but I understand you’re also heading for the bright lights of Broadway?

Charlene: Aw, thank you Damian. We are going off Broadway to BAM, which is a very very cool theatre indeed and we are super excited to pick the show up again.

Damian: Life does seem to be imitating art! Of course Rose Erskine wasn’t always the toast of the town and indeed when we first met her she was one of Long Susan’s ladies working Tenter Street. Nonetheless, by the fifth episode of series one (The Weight of One Man’s Heart written by Toby Finlay), Rose confides in Drake and tells him of her dream to banish the dark world of prostitution and escape into the limelight of the stage. However, towards the end of the second series, and despite her noble dreams and aspirations, Rose is at the very bottom of the playbill appearing at Blewett’s Theatre of Varieties singing like a reed caught in a March gale with lyrics such as “Randy-pandy, sugardy candy. Buy me some almond rock”. In spite of this, and with a little help from a certain friend, Rose transforms into the voice of gaiety and four years later as series three begins, Queen of the Costers! Where would Rose be in 1894 without Long Susan?

Charlene: Long Susan and Rose have always had a good relationship, she (L.S) has always tried to do right by Rose, and she definitely gave her the kick start she needed, which was an incredibly rare thing to get in those days, so there’s always been a great bond between them which makes what happens in season three all the more harder for Rose to stomach. As to where Rose would be without her? I’m fairly sure Rose would still have made it because she’s very streetwise after her experiences in the brothel and around the hard back alleys of East London, she doesn’t quit, and she won’t settle so i think she would have fought tooth and nail to get herself a better life.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

“All my days, all of them, whatever happens, I will always be grateful to you.”
– Rose to Long Susan in Our Betrayal (Written by series creator, Richard Warlow)

Damian: Inevitably we must discuss another of Rose’s guardian angels. I found the scenes centered around Rose and Drake at the conclusion of the last series to be profoundly moving and her loyalty to him truly heartbreaking: (Rose to Inspector Reid) “I search for Bennet Drake. There’s twice, sir, I owe my life to him. I walk this way twice a day and will stop only once I have found him. I cannot forsake him.” Drake missed Rose’s first bravo performance at Blewett’s but is there hope that she may sing for him yet?

Charlene: To live in Rose’s head is to always have hope. So yes, there is indeed hope she will sing for him yet. That quote proves my last statement, which is that no matter what it is, Rose will not fold easily, she’s like a dog with a bone, when she has decided she wants a certain thing she goes after it with all her heart.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: It may not have been a passionate relationship in the past but it strikes me as something much more paramount than that, perhaps a more consistent, steadfast and enduring kind of love. How would you describe the relationship between Rose and Drake in series three from her perspective?

Charlene: Well this is a little hard to answer without giving it all away. There has been six years from when we first saw Rose to when we see her now. She has done a hell of a lot of life in those years, she has been the victim of some very dark crimes and also has been privy to many of the finer things life in the late 1800s had to offer. She has done a hell of a growing up. So she sees Drake much differently now that she did when he first asked for her hand. So I think while their relationship is built on much more than passion, that passion is there now burning all the deeper for having missed it all these years. And that is where their love is at now in season three.

ROSEandDRAKE.jpg

© Tiger Aspect

“I am your true friend. I know that I have been cruel to you in the past. And you must look at me now and see nothing but a reminder of your pain. But I am your friend and I will not desert you. So you go back to your graves and your dosshouses, and you be sure of this: As the day begins and the night ends, you will find me waiting for you.” *

Damian: Jerome Flynn was deservedly BAFTA-nominated for his outstanding performance in series two and I personally think you should have received a nomination for best supporting actress yourself. Quite apart from Richard Warlow’s epic scripts and often poetic dialogue, I’m wondering how as an actor, you approach scenes with so much intensity and raw emotion as those at the graveyard (RS2: 07) with such subtlety and sensitivity and yet make them dramatic. Presumably you rehearse and discuss scenes such as this with Jerome and the director (Andy Wilson) but can you please describe your journey from reading the script right up to the point of filming?

Charlene: I’m blushing. Thank you Damian. You know what sometimes we do talk it out and sometimes we just do it. I never like to be over rehearsed or rigid in my choices because it makes me less malleable to the changes that the other person may bring to the scene. So I never want to be locked in my own ideas and decisions. I like to know my lines obviously and have thought about it and then I like to go to set and see what the rest of the team are bringing. Then for me it comes down to instinct and how it feels.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: In our previous interview you described Rose as “chasing a dime losing a treasure” with reference to Drake. Series 3 sees Rose engaged to Edgar Morton, the proprietor of the music hall. However, there was a line from Rose in the aforementioned episode, “Miss Susan, I have never known what it is to lie with a man I love” – I’m curious if this still remains true?

Charlene: There are different types of love. Lets just say, the love she was referring to in that line above, at the start of season three, remains true. You can draw your own conclusions. 😉

Damian: Thank you Charlene. All that remains is for me to wish you well on Broadway but please don’t wander off with any strange Americans…

Charlene: I really will try – might go see if I can find Jackson someplace!! thank you Damian, pleasure as always. And a quick, HUGE thank you to all the fans who petitioned to have Ripper Street brought back. I think we have made a great season three for you all. Hope you enjoy. :)

~

*The full quote deserves to be read in its entirety owing to its beauty and grace:
“You think you can hide from life and perhaps another man might… but not a man such as you, Bennet Drake. You believe yourself cursed. You are not. You believe you carry only pain into other people’s lives – you do not. Bennet, you brought love into mine. A love that is keener now than ever it was. You are a good man. You are a good man. I will say those words until the day I die. Bennet Drake is the best of men and this life, this world, will not let him sink from its surface.”

~

All interviews and articles on this website are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

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Crimson Noise: The Sound of RIPPER STREET

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015
Photography copyright © Peter Podworski/Dominik Scherrer

In an exclusive interview, Damian Michael Barcroft talks to the prolific film and television composer, Dominik Scherrer. We discuss Jack the Ripper, East End history and his stunning music score for Ripper Street

DOMINIK SCHERRER composes the majority of his innovative and often delightfully unconventional music at Crimson Noise Ltd. This is his recording studio at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane in Spitalfields, London.

Looking out of the window of Dominik’s office, you can see Christchurch and the Shard hiding behind it. In addition to the bells of Christchurch, there is also the sound of the Muezzin from the East End Mosque in Whitechapel and Chinese tap dancers outside. As the sun departs this significantly historical part of the city so beloved by Ripperologists, the evening presents its own distinctive soundscape including drunken revellers and the nightclub below pumping out dance music late at night. At this precise moment there is the sound of someone beatboxing at Brick Lane Market and I wonder to what extent these evocative sounds influence and inspire Dominik’s music…

Dominik'sView

DAMIAN MICHAEL BARCROFT: Dominik, your studio has been here for almost 17 years and you have been based in the East End for more than 22. Crimson Noise is in an old Georgian house on Brick Lane which is of course the same area where Annie Chapman, Jack the Ripper’s second victim was murdered. I must confess that I take ghoulish delight to consider that the music score for Ripper Street was conceived in such a significant location. Can you describe what attracts you to this area and how its environment and atmosphere might flavour your music?

DOMINIK SCHERRER: Indeed as I left the studio last night there were four competing Jack the Ripper tours visiting Annie Chapman’s murder site. It’s the most I’ve seen and I fear that we have been part of reviving interest in this dark chapter of east end history with Ripper Street.

I landed in Spitalfields in the 1990s when studio spaces were affordable. Artists and musicians came. My ancestry is partly Huguenot, so technically I’m one of the last Huguenots to settle here, 250 years after the French silk weavers arrived here.

Times have changed and Spitalfields is now less trendy but has become more mainstream. Artists have moved further out. But drastic changes are part of the area’s history and there is always buzz here. The sheer amount of live music available is inspiring. For a while I was writing and producing for Bengali artists, both for the UK and the Indian market. It was enriching to explore Indian music and exciting to combine it with my own western musical background.

DAMIAN: I understand that you are interested in local history and this was part of the reason that you wanted to get involved with Ripper Street. Did you actively pursue the project or were you already asked to write the music for the show?

DOMINIK: I already had a happy working relationship with lead director Tom Shankland who put me forward. It struck me as a great show and I did my best to pitch good ideas.

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DAMIAN: At what point did you become creatively involved with Ripper Street, were you given the script to read or was there a particular discussion with series creator and lead writer Richard Warlow?

DOMINIK: When I came on board, the first two episodes had already been shot so we could immediately try out ideas. Richard Warlow, Tom Shankland and Will Gould, the executive producer for Tiger Aspect, came for creative meetings to my studio, and we started to bounce around ideas.

DAMIAN: I consider your music score for Ripper Street to be not only richly atmospheric in its own right but also an important contribution to the identity of the show. For example, your main theme and the title sequence is a perfect marriage of sound and imagery which I believe to be one of the most distinctive television opening credit sequences in recent memory. What were your initial thoughts and ideas on how the music should sound?

DOMINIK: My instinct was for the score to be down to earth and non-classical, as if it emanated from the streets of Whitechapel – but presented with of a contemporary cinematic feel. Richard, Tom and Will had similar feelings so we started to experiment. I normally let the opening titles of a show emerge gradually during the writing of the episodes’ scores. We may then pick up on certain themes and develop them further. For example the opening titles music evolved from the theme for Maude Thwaites, the very first victim in episode 1. She was a violinist and hence had a solo-violin theme. In the end the Maude Thwaites theme is not really recognisable in the title tune, but nevertheless was the actual starting point.

DAMIAN: I must say that the themes and their orchestration were rather a bold and pleasingly unconventional choice which extends to your choice of instruments including the fiddle and banjo. I’ve had quite a few conversations with Toby Finlay (collaborating writer on all three series of Ripper Street) about the influence of Western films and history on the show. Was your sound and choice of instruments also a deliberate attempt to evoke the genre?

DOMINIK: Absolutely, Richard Warlow was a great advocate of the Western feel for Ripper Street. It’s not inappropriate to portray Victorian Whitechapel as a kind of Wild West. Conversely though, the use of banjo is historically appropriate. Guitar would have been exotic in Victorian London, whereas banjo was popular in music halls. Still, the Daily Mail complained about the use of banjo and fiddle and suggested that the sound of a barrel organ would be appropriate for 1890s London. There is in fact a little bit of barrel organ in the score, but scoring an action scene or a romantic scene with barrel organ just wouldn’t work.

DAMIAN: There are certain sounds in Ripper Street and some of your other scores that I can’t quite put my finger on but are more like sound effects rather than conventional music and this also reminds me of many Western scores especially Ennio Morricone’s early work. Do you particularly enjoy experimenting with music to create different sounds?

DOMINIK: I spend a lot of time creating special sounds for Ripper Street. It’s certainly enjoyable but it also gives the show an individual feel. The main challenge is to create sounds that are tense and driving without being too massive in origin – again to fit in with the street music concept. Then we use a lot of special recording techniques and postproduction techniques to shape the sound try to keep it earthy and organic at the same time. And there is a wealth of European and exotic solo instruments: Mandolins, Mandola, Kemençe, Sethar, Dobro. The solo on the theme tune is played on a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Those instruments are played by excellent, creative musicians. And often an entire string orchestra is playing too – for added gravitas.

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DAMIAN: I think it was Howard Shore who used whale cries in his score for The Silence of the Lambs to disconcert the audience. Have you ever used nonhuman performed instruments or sounds in any of your music?

DOMINIK: Good idea, I’ll book a few banjo-playing cetaceans next time.

DAMIAN: Like your scores for the sixties-set Inspector George Gently series, the music for Ripper Street avoids the clichés of its period setting, was there ever a temptation to write something rather more conventional or typical of the Victorian era?

DOMINIK: A film composer will always use some aspects of the period and locale, compositionally or orchestration-wise and makes them part of a modern cinematic soundscape but to directly compose in the style of music-hall, Gilbert & Sullivan, classical composers like Parry or Elgar would be tricky in a crime-drama context. It’s frustrating that the supposed anachronism of identifiable instruments such as banjo and fiddle is more readily criticised, compared to music played by standard orchestra. For example, my colleague John Lunn’s (excellent) Downton Abbey score is a modern composition, and musically quite distant from Edwardian England. Still, it is not questioned perhaps because it’s played by string orchestra and piano – a more universal instrumentation.

DAMIAN: Some fans of the show have commented on the similarity in style of your score for Ripper Street and the music from the recent Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films composed by Hans Zimmer. Was the signature style of those two films ever discussed as a possible sound to explore?

DOMINIK: Hans Zimmer really nailed his beefed-up folky style for the Sherlock Holmes films and initially we made it part of the portfolio of many inspirations for the new soundtrack. In any genre of music you build on previous achievements, you don’t re-invent the wheel each time. Other influences were the aforementioned Morricone, as well as a lot of baroque music, especially some baroque string techniques. There is also an ‘urban’ element in the Ripper Street soundtrack – perhaps evoking the spirit of hedonism in todays east end’s nightclubs, perhaps similar to the abandon of the late nights of the 1890s. The Victorian east end’s significant Irish population is also an influence, with Celtic elements, and there are more oriental influences brought in from overseas via the docks. With all these influences, and with the input of our great soloist, the soundtrack then goes on its own journey and asserts its own style.

DAMIAN: You started composing quite early and wrote the soundtracks to the short films that you made as a teenager. Do any of these shorts still survive?

DOMINIK: They survive and I am also making films now. For example I shot a film called Hell for Leather in the east end, conceived as an opera for the screen. It’s a biblical story with motorbike gangs. It got a surprising amount of attention and became part of the touring YBA “Sensation” exhibition. I am developing further music-driven film projects at the same time as composing for the screen.

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DAMIAN: I believe that in addition to playing the piano, you were originally a trained flautist. However, before specialising in soundtrack work, you moved here from Switzerland to study film and I was wondering what your initial career plans were at that time?

DOMINIK: Music and film can both deliver great energy and combinations of the two even more so. I think it’s that electrifying, spine-tingling energy, the thrill that makes your hair stand on the back of your neck that I’m excited about. I am constantly trying to educate myself further in music, film, and the arts in general and I am happy to be working across the disciplines – composing for the screen or the stage, performing music on stage, writing opera or musical theatre. London offered itself as the best place to pursue all these activities. We have an openness here that allows everyone to transcend the boundaries of style and discipline – I know many top classical musicians who are equally at home in jazz or pop for example.

DAMIAN: Can you remember the first time you yourself noticed soundtracks and became aware of the artistic possibilities of the synthesis between sound and screen?

DOMINIK: Because of my parents’ involvement with music I regularly attended orchestral rehearsals as a child and had a heightened awareness of music. My childhood’s soundtrack key moment was, like for many of my generation, Star Wars. It was not only John Williams’ heroic-romantic themes themselves that got me so excited, but also the confidence of the presentation, the all-out energy in the way the music is used. Let’s not forget it was with Star Wars that many of us experienced Dolby Stereo for the first time, with its heightened dynamic range and surround channels. It had a clarity, punch, scale, good tunes, spaceships and Princess Leia. The Wagnerian experience of Star Wars in the cinema would almost literally blow you away as a child.

DAMIAN: Do you think that film/TV scores get the respect and recognition that they deserve from either audiences or the industry itself?

DOMINIK: Definitely. Almost too much. On Classic FM you’ll hear a lot of film-music that was conceived to be heard with the film, and may sound simplistic on its own. But it’s perhaps the simplicity that’s appealing. I have the feeling film music is more popular than ever and it can be surprising to see Howard Shore topping Mozart in the classical charts.

DAMIAN: From my own personal point of view as a passionate admirer of film/TV composers and a collector of soundtrack CDs, I feel increasingly disappointed and actually rather cheated by the state of both record labels and many aspects of the music industry in general. For example, the few shops that actually do stock a respectable selection of soundtracks are massively overpriced in comparison to other albums and while the internet has made it easier to purchase more diverse and obscure titles from all over the world, it has also contributed hugely to the amount of piracy that is of little interest to enthusiasts such as myself and has forced specialist shops to close. The other issue is that studios and record labels continually take advantage of a limited market of consumers by releasing a substandard soundtrack album with little material when a film is released and then producing another “special” or “collector’s” edition with all the music that they could have released in the first place so that collectors have to pay for the same title twice or even several times in some instances. What do you think should be done to improve the availability and standard of soundtrack albums?

DOMINIK I share your irritation about the unavailability of some soundtrack recordings. The problem is that soundtrack releases can be complex legally. The rights of the recordings may be owned by several production companies at the same time. The publishing is administered by a number of other companies. All those parties will have to agree and sign the soundtrack agreements. In the US the contracts with the orchestras may restrict the release of original soundtracks. We are facing some of these problems for the Ripper Street soundtrack release but we are working on it!

DAMIAN: I know that you enjoy and take inspiration from a wide variety of musical genres including classical, pop, rock, jazz and world, but if you were to introduce someone to the art of film and television composition, which particular composers would you recommend they listen to?

DOMINIK: Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman, Alberto Iglesias, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Mychael Danna, John Barry, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, John Brion, Franz Waxman, Dario Marianelli, Jerry Goldsmith.

DAMIAN: I understand that you develop themes on a piano at first, write them down on manuscript and then produce electronic mock-ups which are presented to the director before recording them. I imagine this can be quite a nerve-wrecking process and I was wondering if you can tell immediately if a director or producer is pleased (or not!) with the sound that you have created for them?

DOMINIK: If they are in the same room to review the draft scores, there is an immediate, intuitive understanding, even before anything is said. Music can sometimes be tricky to talk about and being in the same room helps. Apparently communication is largely nonverbal, and this really applies with music. Reviewing drafts in these situations also helps me as composer – sitting back and looking at the whole score from a distance.

DAMIAN: The American giant of film music Alex North famously had his score for 2001: A Space Odyssey rejected by Stanley Kubrick and a more recent example of this would be Howard Shore’s unused music for Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake. Have such “creative differences” ever had a significant impact on your work?

DOMINIK: Alex North’s 2001 score did get a release on vinyl subsequently and I have that album. He basically composed pastiches of the Ligeti, Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss pieces which obviously must have been used as ‘temp’–  guide music laid during the picture edit. In the end Kubrick decided to use the ‘real thing’ and abandon North’s score, possibly also because Kubrick was unscrupulous about the rights situation. Ligeti was famously neither asked permission nor paid for the use of his amazing choral, textural, music in 2001.

Composers are frequently fired, and more so in the US. Touch wood, it hasn’t happened to me yet, but it can happen that I have a favourite theme that is finally never used in the film.

DAMIAN: Many film/television composers have a distinct and instantly recognisable sound to their music, perhaps John Barry and Danny Elfman are good examples of this. Would you say that there is a particular Dominik Scherrer style?

DOMINIK: More than aspiring to have my own style I hope I can come up with something new every time. I am always trying out new ways of composition, orchestration, production. It’s what keeps me excited. Saying that, sometimes my colleagues listen to my music and say ‘this is very Dominik!’ so maybe there is a style. Perhaps it’s a certain cheekiness or directness in the melodies.

DAMIAN: I would argue that your music has a certain versatility not always found in other composers where their scores occasionally overpower or dominate a production which is sometimes detrimental to the integrity of the overall meaning of the sound. You seem to be comfortable writing for various genres such as action/adventure (Primeval) or horror (the 2006 production of Dracula) but I was particularly interested in your compositions for foreign language films such as Tutto parla di te and I do actually think your sound often has a more European quality reminiscent of such World Cinema composers as Philippe Sarde, Jean-Claude Petit, Karl-Ernst Sasse, Georges Delerue, Jurgen Knieper, Louis Crelier and Nicola Piovani. Is this a particular aspect of your music that can be more fully expressed when writing for films not in the English language?

DOMINIK: Possibly rather than the language, it may have to do with the type of production. They are arthouse movies whose scores are not genre-bound and may have a lighter touch. The story lines have less death, crime and destruction. I am indeed a fan of Nicola Piovani and went to see him live at Chelsea Old Town Hall recently. It was great see the man in the flesh perform his music but interestingly I was perhaps missing the pictures that go with the music!

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DAMIAN: Many productions, particularly those from Hollywood, suffer from wall-to-wall music which regardless to the quality of the actual music itself, suffers from overuse and having to compete with dialogue and sound effects. Some of the best director-composer relationships are those in which the music is discussed creatively throughout the entire production as oppose to just sticking the music on in postproduction. Perhaps the most celebrated illustration of this sort of creative collaboration is Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann (for example The Birds doesn’t even feature any original “music” but is still a stunning soundtrack). However, I particularly admire the relationship between David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti and it is evident that they both have an interest and passion in the sound of film beyond that of the music score. I was wondering if, in addition to the writers and directors you’ve worked with, you collaborate with sound departments including the sound designer, sound effects artist and dubbing mixer etc?

DOMINIK: The picture edit is a creative period, as the music can also influence the cut. I help the director to find the atmosphere and a language of the film. After the cut is locked it’s inspiring to collaborate with the sound postproduction department and we sometimes bounce ideas back and forth. I give them my draft music and they can shape some of the effects accordingly. Because their workflow doesn’t normally require presentations of draft ideas I often don’t get to hear their work. I am often a bit in the dark about their work and it can be a bit surprising what you finally get to hear in the dubbing theatre when all the dialogue sound effects and music are finally combined.

DAMIAN: I presume it must be a creative advantage for composers to own their own studio, was all the music for Ripper Street recorded at Crimson Noise?

DOMINIK: On a score like for Ripper Street it’s great to compose and record as you go along. Some of the soloists’ amazing performances can have a ripple effect on the score. You may suddenly discover new approaches or you may simplify ideas drastically, because the performance of a particular musician is so strong that you decide to cut out everything else. It helps when you have the flexibility to record at any time. I can mix the score to a high spec at my studio too and I hire in mix engineers who work at my studio. This way I’ll have the flexibility to revise at short notice later during the late stages in post production. I record all the larger ensembles at the lovely Angel Studios in nearby Islington. We have an established workflow and they specialise in these kind of recordings. They are large wood panelled rooms where the instruments can really sing out. All of Ripper Street’s larger strings ensembles are recorded at Angel Studios.

DAMIAN: We’ve discussed the idea of allowing music scores to breathe and you have had twenty-four hours worth of screentime to explore the sound of Ripper Street. How do you think your music has evolved throughout its first, second and third series?

DOMINIK: Over the 24 episodes the score has developed its style and become more individual. The musical themes started to cross-feed and I have found a method to continue the themes but at the same time keep an individuality for a particular episode’s storyline, or guest character. I am perfecting our expanding library of special sounds and favours.

DAMIAN: Dominik, thank you very much indeed.

DOMINIK: It’s been a pleasure, Damian, thanks!

FW 4578More information about Dominik and his music here: http://www.dominikscherrer.com/

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The Ripper Street soundtrack album will be released June 15 in the UK and is available to pre-order now:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ripper-Street-Original-Television-Soundtrack/dp/B00WUVRTGA/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1431549771&sr=1-1&keywords=RIPPER+STREET

The US release date is June 23 and can be pre-ordered here:

http://www.amazon.com/Ripper-Street-Various-Artists/dp/B00WUVRTGA/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1431550125&sr=1-1&keywords=ripper+street

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Halloween with Most Haunted’s Richard Felix

Interview contents and images are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2014

~~~

“Have you seen Death? It has seen you and is watching closely. By the time you finish reading this, Death may well have become a little more intimate than when we began. Soon, you and Death will be inseparable.” – D. A. Griffiths

~~~

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. I was a good little boy who always said his prayers at night and was even an altar boy for good measure because God and the Devil were very real to me as a child. Catholic Church, Catholic School and Catholic guilt – my Holy Trinity. Words and phrases like eternal life, world without end, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, still reverberate but I lost my faith somewhere along the way.

It’s difficult to say when or even why but the idea of kneeling, singing and praying together as part of a congregation suddenly became weird to me – especially the act of Holy Communion; Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. And then you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. The little Damian may have amicably taken part in this ritual mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ but teenage Damian was out of there. And he never went back.

Still, those eternal questions remain: Why am I here? What will happen to me when I die? Does my bum look big in this dress? Perhaps in the absence of God or faith, I chose to pursue the supernatural or paranormal in my exploration of life’s unanswered questions but the truth is, I wasn’t much convinced with this either.

I was talking about all this with a friend of mine, Ashley Waterhouse, curator of the Derby Gaol (old English for jail) and Police Museum, while I was researching Victorian Police for a new book on the subject. Ashley said I should have a chat with Richard Felix and he was right! Of course, I knew Richard from his four years on TV’s Most Haunted and was impressed by his passion and knowledge as a historian and paranormal investigator. Perhaps he could answer some of my questions but I also wanted to ask him if his own brush with death as a teenager (he was diagnosed with cancer but made a full recovery) contributed to his interest in the afterlife and also about the controversy surrounding Most Haunted’s authenticity.

So, Godless and without any faith or belief system of my own, I made my way to meet Richard Felix to explore the paranormal – maybe I would even see a ghost! As I sat on the train from Uttoxeter to Derby, it amused me to recall that poster behind Mr. Mulder’s desk.

~

Damian: Derby has been named the ghost capital of England. Well, here we are in Derby, specifically we’re sitting in the Derby Jail, which itself, has been called a strong contender for the title of most haunted place in Derby. So, are you telling me that I’m now in what could be the most haunted place in England?

Richard: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. But it could get better than that Damian because Derby is the most haunted city in Great Britain and this is probably, with its history and everything else, the most haunted place in Derby but what you’ve got to remember is Britain has actually got more ghosts than anywhere else in the world because the ghost thing is an English-speaking people thing. England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, they all have a ghost culture that non-English-speaking countries don’t have – they don’t do ghosts like we do. They’ve got their beliefs and superstitions such as the Mexican Day of the Dead but in terms of actual ghosts, England is the most haunted country in the world and Derby is the most haunted city in the world!

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Damian: OK. First of all, what evidence is there to support such a claim and secondly, am I safe to continue with this interview?

Richard: Oh yeah, absolutely – of course you’re safe! The evidence, would you believe, didn’t actually come from me. It all came about through my work over the last twenty-two years of ghost walks, tours, trips, books, DVDs and everything else about not only Derby but the whole of the country and it really came about on a visit to York when I bought one of those little Pitkin tourist books and it said at the very beginning that York, with a rumoured 140 sightings of ghosts within in the city, surely York must be the most haunted city in Great Britain. And I read this and came back to Derby and it was not long after I’d written a book, me and a medium friend of mine, called The Ghosts of Derby, that I asked him exactly how many ghost stories have we got and he said well in excess of 150 documented first-hand accounts. In other words, we know the names of the person –not of the ghost– but the person who actually saw the ghost so it really came from that and about four or five years ago a priest in his seventies who lives in Wales and is also a karate expert, self-defence expert, biker…

Damian: That’s quite a combination…

Richard: …Yeah and he also does all sorts of statistics for magazines and it was for a double-pack paranormal DVD that got commissioned and he declared Derby to be the most haunted city in Great Britain with York and Chester a joint second. YES! So you see, it wasn’t me – it was in all the newspapers so it must be true mustn’t it?

Damian: Indeed. Well, I’ve certainly come to the right place then. You know how people say that if you suddenly find yourself in front of a wild animal, the best thing to do is stay absolutely still, what advice can you give me should I suddenly find myself next to a ghost?

Richard: Talk to it.

Damian: You want me to talk to it?

Richard: Give it respect. Give it the same respect you would have given it when it was alive because remember it was once a human being like you and possibly still thinks it is and possibly doesn’t even realize it passed over. In fact it probably hasn’t passed over because it’s still around. That’s the big one that so many people don’t seem to understand. Of course the next thing to tell you is that the profession of a ghost, if they had one, wouldn’t be to scare you.

Damian: That was going to be my next question and it’s the title of a certain book, What is a Ghost?

Richard: Well, that’s the title of my book!

Damian: Yes I know Richard – it’s what’s called a plug!

Richard: Ha! Well, the word ghost which we use is nothing more than a Proto-Indo-European word well over 3000 years old, “ghodyz” means to be frightened of – that’s it. From it comes the old English word “gast” and the German word “geist” and they all mean the same. When William Caxton came over here with his printing press in the fourteen-hundreds it took the old English word “gost” but he spelt it with a silent H because that was the Flemish spelling and we got our ghost. So anything that we don’t understand, something that walks through the wall, throws something off a mantlepiece or walks up the stairs but you can’t see them, doors open on their own, we refer to it as a ghost because we’re frightened of it. We need to change it. I’d like to change the name to energy; an energy force that has left the body but is still around.

Damian: It’s not quite as media-friendly though is it, energy instead of ghost? A film called “Ghost” is going to attract a big audience whereas “Energy”, well, not so much…

Richard: No, you’re absolutely right, it wouldn’t work. People want to be frightened and that’s why they watch Paranormal Activity and Most Haunted for the fear factor but I’m the guy that’s trying to get people away from that and actually explain what a ghost really is which is an energy source. 40% of it I believe to be the spirit or a soul of a dead person, an intelligence that knows you’re there that can come back and interact…

Damian: But let me ask you this, you’ve just mentioned an intelligence but before you said that ghosts possibly don’t realize that they’ve passed over so exactly how aware or intelligent are they if don’t even comprehend that they are actually dead?

Richard: It’s operating on a different level, be that a spiritual plane, dimension, frequency or vibration. In other words, the ghost that I actually saw going past the kitchen in this very building, I don’t think it saw me and I don’t think it saw the kitchen as it is now. I think it is in its own realm as the jail was back then years ago. Hence the fact that it walked through the wall so supposing there was a door there originally in 1756, but we’ve now put the door there, I don’t think the ghost would come through that door, it would come through the original door here because it’s on a different frequency or vibration. In other words, in its time, that door was open and that’s why sometimes they are headless or legless because they are actually on the original floor that was lower or the ceiling higher than the present one. I don’t think that they know the building has changed even if the building’s not there anymore.

Damian: So the kind of ghost that we are accustomed to seeing in films are more perceptive and intelligent than “real” ones?

Richard: Ah, not always but they can be. They can be an intelligence that knows you’re there, that can come back if you need them and be around you if you’re in need or trouble…

Damian: The Patrick Swayze kind of ghost perhaps?

Richard: Oh yeah, very much so. The number of times after Christmas that a little girl might see an old lady but isn’t afraid of her. Then the photos come out at a Christmas party and the little girl says that’s the lady I saw in my bedroom the other night. Well it’s her Grandma and the little girl might be three and the old lady  has been dead for five years. That happens over and over again because she’s still around, they don’t go anywhere. They’re not up there, or down there.

Damian: Ghost sightings and incidents apparently tend to occur here from around October –naturally in time to cash in on Halloween!– through to December and then tail off until June or July. Why would there be more or less sightings at particular times of the year do you think?

Richard: That’s a good question. There’s various reasons for that and I don’t believe for one minute that ghosts are creatures of the night because whatever incident created a ghost usually happens in the day time.

Damian: What incident might that be for example?

Richard: A hanging perhaps and we don’t hang people at night. In the olden days where most ghosts come from, as soon as it got dark people went to bed.

Damian: But can you tell me why would most ghosts be from the “olden days” as oppose to more recent times?

Richard: Oh I’ve got a huge theory for that one and it’s all down to what they believed in at the time rather than what people believe in now. For example, have you ever heard of the ghost of a caveman?

Damian: No.

Richard: Exactly. So, prehistory or two-thousand years ago, there are very few ghosts. I’m not saying there are none but there are not many. Have you ever seen a ghost wearing a hoodie and smoking a joint with his backside hanging out of his jeans walking through a council house wall?

Damian: Thankfully not.

Richard: So there’s a huge period in between and it all started two-thousand years ago with the creation of Christianity.

Damian: Well we’re going to come on to that but back to the original question of why there would be more or less ghost sightings at particular times of the year…

Richard: So basically in October you can tie in the pagan beliefs of Halloween but the other reason is that it’s also darker a lot earlier at that time of the year so regardless of what I say about ghosts not being creatures of the night, the fact is that your sensors that see or hear are more heightened in the dark. That’s why we filmed Most Haunted in the dark and also because it’s more scary. People are more scared and more alert in the winter months.

Damian: You’re actually scared of the dark aren’t you Richard?

Richard: Well actually, I’m scared of what’s in the dark. There’s a difference isn’t there?

Damian: Perhaps. Tell me how you first became interested in the paranormal and if your own brush with death as a teenager may have contributed to this?

Richard: I’ve been frightened of the paranormal since I was four and that’s because I played with kids that were a lot older than me and they used to frighten me to death with ghost stories, not frighten, terrify me and from the age of four I used to lay awake at night waiting for the green ghost. It’s still with me, I never went to the toilet alone or slept without the light on until I was at least fourteen – I’m terrified of ghosts! I’d hide under the bedsheets, count to sixty and then with both fingers crossed and fein deep sleep and then it wouldn’t do anything to me. I need to see a physiatrist don’t I?

Damian: Quite possibly.

Richard: So I think having a fear in something probably gives you an interest into it as well. And then of course it all started when I became chairman of Derby tourism and thought we needed ways of promoting the city. York do ghosts walks so why don’t we? So I started the legendary ghost walks and we’ve had a million and a half people on the ghosts walks in the last 22 years!

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Damian: Let’s talk about the Derby jail which we’re sitting in now. If I said to my partner that I was going to buy an allegedly haunted old jail, I suspect she would react somewhat disapprovingly to say the least. What did your wife have to say on the matter?

Richard: At the time I had already taken over Derby heritage centre which was three-thousand square feet of Tudor grammar school that had got a history going back to 1160 with famous boys that went to school there like you wouldn’t believe in that building. Thomas Linacre, the founder of the Royal College of Physicians, Bishop Juxon, the man that stood on the scaffold with King Charles I and ghosts – very haunted as well so I started the ghost walks. I’d bitten off an awful lot with this building and my wife was not too keen on me starting another project that took me eighteen months to make on a very small budget because, I won’t go into this, but I’ve never had the slightest help from the city in any way. I can see her now sitting in a cafe in the Eagle Centre as it was then telling me I don’t want you to do this.

Damian: But you just ignored her anyway?

Richard: Of course I did!

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Damian: Getting back to the theme of childhood and the paranormal. Children are fascinated with ghosts and horror but as you get older and friends and family pass away, do you think this takes away the fun aspect only to be replaced with sadness and melancholy – does ghost hunting become a more emotional experience? I mean you’ve made a living out of ghosts and death…

Richard: Yeah, it’s not a dying business at all! I was actually always frightened to death that my Dad would appear in my bedroom when he died. But I wasn’t frightened when he was alive so why the hell should I be frightened of him appearing when he’s dead?

Damian: I’d be somewhat disconcerted if a dead person suddenly appeared in my bedroom. Then again, I’d be disconcerted if anyone suddenly appeared in my bedroom without knocking. Anyway, did your father ever appear?

Richard: Well, talking of the whole emotion thing and how it changes, I actually travelled in the car with him after he was dead without me seeing him and he was seen by somebody else.

Damian: Who was driving the car?

Richard: I was driving – it wasn’t him! I travelled with my father and he was seen in the rearview mirror of the bloke in front all the way down through an army camp where Dad and I used to go. The guy got out and said hello Richard are you and your father OK and looked into the passenger seat and realized that no one else was there. He knew us very well and was head of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and he said there was definitely someone sitting in the passenger seat next to me.

Damian: I’d like to move on to the thorny issue of religion. I was raised a Catholic but I now have a number of doubts concerning the faith and religion in general and I suppose it’s the same with ghosts…

Richard: It is the same thing.

voodoodoll1Damian: My Nan is a devout Christian and would undoubtedly be disappointed that I’m in a haunted old jail doing an interview with a paranormal investigator accompanied by your resident psychic (Chris Thompson) sitting in the corner who has just been showing me his collection of African Voodoo fetish dolls! Do you think it is possible to be a religious person and also pursue the paranormal?

Richard: Yes. Yes I do – absolutely.

Damian: Are you a religious man?

Richard: No but I believe in a creator. I’m Church of England, I was christened and I usually wear a cross but the only reason I wear it is for them and not for me – those believers and I’m talking about the dead ones. It’s a little bit like a reverse magnet, if you put two magnets together, one pushes the other one away and I believe that wearing a cross does the same thing – repels them for want of a better word.

Damian: Are we talking about spirits?

Richard: Yes. It’s gets them away from me because I’m frightened of them.

Damian: Not to be cynical but wouldn’t it be in your best interests not to repel them as a paranormal investigator?

Richard: But I’m frightened of them!

Damian: Not really very good for business though is it?

Richard: Hah! I actually wore a fantastic Saxon cross that was found on the lakes in Ireland where the Irish King is buried and it’s a Celtic cross that would have been worn by a monk and on Most Haunted, and this is real – it was ripped off my neck. There was two supposed evil monks in this place in Portsmouth and you could see the mark on my neck where it was ripped off!

Damian: This was actually caught on camera in an episode of Most Haunted?

Richard: Yeah, too right it was. That was real. I know that was real, it actually happened to me.

Damian: Can we just clarify your stance on religious faith and the possible contradiction it might pose with paranormal investigation?

Richard: I’m not anti-church, I’m anti-man. Man that has corrupted the church and used it for their own gains. When you ask me if I believe in God, the problem that I have is, and call it God if you will, you could call it anything from Jehovah to Allah but we’re all talking about the same thing – a man in the sky. I believe that something created all of this.

Damian: So while you might entertain the idea of a God that created us, in terms of the New Testament at least, you just dismiss all the events depicted in the Bible?

Richard: I’m sorry but do you really think that Mary wasn’t playing around…

Damian: I really wouldn’t like to say but we’re sat here in a supposedly haunted building discussing spirits returning from the dead. How is Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ any different from the ghosts or spirits that you have spent your life investigating?

Richard: Maybe we’re singing from the same hymn book. I mean I’m talking about someone that dies, goes wherever and then comes back. The Church is talking about a guy that died after he was executed and three days later came back. I suppose the only difference with Jesus is that it was a physical resurrection as oppose to just spiritual. But there’s no proof for either.

Damian: But that’s where the issue of faith comes in isn’t it?

Richard: Yes and I have a lot of time for anyone that has faith.

Damian: Regardless to what faith or what they believe in?

Richard: Yes, I don’t care what you believe in. If you believe in spacemen that will come and take you back at the end of your life to wherever you came from then good for you. But please, please don’t kill people because you think your faith is slightly different from someone else’s.

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Damian: Moving on. You are probably best known to many people for your appearances on TV’s Most Haunted with Yvette Fielding. Can I ask why you left and perhaps comment on some of the negative publicity regarding the controversial issue of the show’s authenticity?

Richard: Well, when I joined Most Haunted I believed in most things that happened at the beginning but basically it degenerated into Scooby-Doo and that was my problem. So what I’m saying to you is that on the show, I never caught anyone faking anything in the four and half years I was on the programme. I’m not saying they didn’t, because I know that everything that happened couldn’t have been a ghost every five minutes. It’s as simple as that. How long have you been here now – has anything happened to you?

Damian: Sadly not…

Richard: Exactly. But if we were on the show something would have happened over and over again by now and it doesn’t work like that. But an awful lot of stuff that happened on that show I genuinely can’t explain – I really mean that. For me, when a door slammed shut on Most Haunted, it was always presented as a scary ghost, screams went, I probably ran off because I’m frightened of ghosts and you probably jumped off your sofa at home. It always had to be a scary ghost but what I wanted to do was to go away and find out why that door slammed shut because I wanted to check if someone had left a window open. What you have to do in the ghost business is to tick all the normal explanation boxes first and for me there was never any normal boxes on Most Haunted. That was the trouble and because of that I thought I needed to go. I was one of the few people on that show, apart from Derek Acorah and other mediums who would lose credibility. The other people, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, were cameramen, hairdressers and things and it didn’t matter how many times they fell over, felt sick, got a headache, got scratched – they wouldn’t lose any credibility. I would.

Damian: You’ve mentioned Derek Acorah and the two of you are very good friends?

Richard: Very good friends with Derek and I believe that there is an absolute genuine side to him.

Damian: You say that you believe there is a genuine side but that implies to me that you’re suggesting there is perhaps another side to him that is possibly less genuine?

Richard: I would say that on TV the problem you’ve got is that if you’re told by a TV company that I want two ghosts in the attic, one in the bathroom, two down the toilet, one in the garage, three in this room and one down there and don’t ever say there’s nothing here, then I would say what are you going to do about that when you are told you’ve got to find ghosts in every room?

Damian: So you are saying that there’s a pressure to make something up in terms of delivering the goods in order to entertain the audience?

Richard: Oh I believe you’ve got to come up with the goods and I would imagine that you probably have to stick to a script to a certain extent. I’ve seen a side to Derek that is totally different to what I saw on Most Haunted because again, it was an entertainment show, or at least later rebranded as an entertainment show.

Damian: You’ve done live shows many times yourself and if someone spends their hard-earned money to come and see you, you’re going to brand that as the real thing as oppose to simply entertainment aren’t you?

Richard: Me personally?

Damian: Yes.

Richard: Yes but I don’t see dead people. I try to produce a rational explanation for people to talk about that I believe entertains them, because, I believe that the reality behind ghosts is far more fascinating than the Scooby-Doo side of things. It’s very unfair to the world to disrespect the whole medium thing and still laughs at the whole idea of people talking to the dead because we just don’t understand it yet – science won’t take it seriously because there is too much Scooby-Doo surrounding mediums. But if I was to tell you that a man named Stevie Wonder, when he can actually find a piano – can play it. I mean he can’t even see – nevermind read music – it’s a gift and there’s something different in his mind to what’s going on in ours but so too does a medium have something different but people won’t accept that bit. I mean I could sit down with a piano for the next thirty years and I still wouldn’t be able to play “I Just Called to Say I Love You” like Stevie Wonder can or even write it for that matter. It’s another part of the mind that we haven’t explored – YET!

Damian: And sadly we must end on that musical note for now Richard. Thank you very much indeed.

Richard: Thank you Damian.

~~~

Well, I didn’t see any ghosts but then I’ve never seen Jesus either. It’s like it says on the poster…

I want to believe.

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

For more information about the Derby Gaol, including its fantastic new Derby Police Musuem, please go to http://www.derbygaol.com/

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My thanks to Richard Felix, Chris Thompson and especially museum curator, Ashley Waterhouse.

+ Dedicated to PC Wayne Johnson +

Wayne was a police constable for 31 years and even won Bobby of the Year. His passion, knowledge and support concerning the Derby Police Museum will never be forgotten. Wayne sadly passed away shortly before this interview took place.

T

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BOGART’S GIN

“The whole world is three drinks behind” – Humphrey Bogart

There were many great movie stars during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many of these, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni and George Raft, to name but a few, were his onscreen as well as professional rivals. None, however, have endured in the popular imagination as much as Humphrey Bogart.

From the birth of the Bogie persona in The Petrified Forest (1936), to his first true breakthrough “fully fledged” role in The Maltese Falcon (1942), the star-making performance in one of Hollywood’s greatest films, Casablanca (1942) to more introspective and mature characterisations in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and The African Queen (1951)  – not to mention those classic collaborations with his wife, the late great Lauren Bacall, the silver screen’s hottest couple in To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948), Bogart’s cinematic legacy continues to prosper. Indeed, he has been voted the greatest movie star of all time.

Now, ROK Drinks and the Humphrey Bogart Estate have teamed up to create the ultimate tribute to the iconic movie star and gin connoisseur – his very own bottle! In this exclusive interview, Damian Michael Barcroft talks to Bruce Renny, the head of marketing at ROK, and Robbert de Klerk, the co-managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, about Bogart’s Gin. Grab your hat and coat – there’s a new gin in town…

bogiegin3Damian: Like every other Bogart fan around the world, I can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle of Bogart’s Gin, but can you tell me how this all got started – was it the Bogart Estate or the guys at ROK who came up with the initial idea?

Bruce: This is really a story about perfect timing. Around the time that we were getting ready to bring our gin to market, we were introduced to the Bogart Estate. We already knew we had the best quality gin so, when we were presented with the possibility of making one of Hollywood’s biggest icons, who was also a true gin lover, the face of our gin, the decision was easy.

Robbert: At the Bogart Estate, the key to any partnership is authenticity. We have been approached many times with requests to lend Bogie’s name to a drink. We have always said no. Sometimes because it was a drink Bogie didn’t enjoy, and sometimes because the drink wasn’t great. And then we were introduced to ROK Drinks. Not only were they getting ready to launch a gin, which was one of Bogie’s very favorite drinks, but the gin was absolutely top notch. And on top of that, you can’t ask for better partners than ROK’s co-founders, John Paul DeJoria and Jonathan Kendrick. It was clear to us that this was the right time to take the plunge.

bogiegin2Damian: What was the reaction from Stephen Bogart, son of Bogie and Bacall?

Robbert: Stephen is my co-managing partner at the Bogart Estate, and he was involved from the very beginning. He has always been very clear that the first priority of the Bogart Estate has to be to protect and promote his father’s legacy. He absolutely loves Bogart’s Gin, and agrees ROK Drinks is the right partner to launch a spirit bearing his father’s name.

Damian: And how has the spirits industry received the product?

Bruce: The reaction has been both overwhelming and positive. We were frankly a bit surprised by how broadly our launch announcement was covered. We’ve been fielding product requests and distributor inquiries from just about every region in the world.

Damian: Bogart was born in 1899 and often described himself as a last-century man. Indeed, gin was a favourite drink during the Victorian era but I’m wondering why its popularity is increasingly on the rise?

Bruce:  It’s premium gin which is seeing a big uptake in many parts of the world – particularly artisanal pot-still gin – because, we believe, people are increasingly appreciating the delicate, subtle and complex flavours which many upscale gins now have. Bogart’s Gin, for example, is infused with coriander, macadamia nuts and citrus zests.

Humphrey Bogart enjoying a drink at home

Humphrey Bogart enjoying a drink at home

Damian: Apparently, there are  over 700 different  gin  cocktail recipes – what can  you recommend? 

Bruce: Bogart’s Gin is of such high quality that you can actually sip it neat. It also goes very well with a slice of cucumber. And you’ll never taste a better gin & tonic than one made with Bogart’s.

Damian: I heard it was a Dirty Martini but do we know what was Bogart’s personal favourite?

Robbert: You heard right. Bogie loved martinis, and the dirty martini was very popular in the 40s and 50s. It’s great to see classic cocktails making such a big comeback recently. If you ask us at the Bogart Estate, a real martini is made with gin, not vodka.

“Never trust a man who doesn’t drink” – Humphrey Bogart

Damian: Each bottle will contain one of Bogart’s classic quotes. For gin enthusiasts and movie fans, who will undoubtedly want to collect the lot, can you tell us how many different bottles there will be and give us a few examples of the quotes?

Bruce: Well, that will depend in no small part on what we’re allowed to put on the bottles. Humphrey Bogart said some great things about drinking, but some of his quotes might not pass muster with the relevant authorities! Lucky for all of us, he was a very quotable man, and we have plenty of material to choose from. All I can say is that we’ll do what we can to bring you as many of his quotes as possible!

“When he gets barred, he gets barred from the right places” – Lauren Bacall

Damian: There’s a great story about Bogie enjoying drinks with a few friends at the New York nightspot, El Morocco, in 1949. Apparently, they were accompanied by two 22-pound stuffed pandas and words were exchanged because the waiter refused to serve them. Recalling the incident later to a reporter, Bogie said, “I can take my Panda any place I want to. And if I want to buy it a drink, that’s my business.” Please tell me this quote will be on one of the bottles?

Robbert: That incident is famously known as “Panda-gate.” A young lady seeking attention tried to grab the panda. And Bogie, who bought the panda for Stephen, prevented her from taking it. She actually pressed charges, and Bogie was acquitted by the judge, who ruled that Bogie rightfully defended his property and that the woman acted up at the urging of the night club’s publicist. Bogie gave that great quote on the courthouse steps. If we can fit it on the bottle, we may well include it at some point!

Damian: When will Bogart’s Gin be available to buy both here and the US?

Bruce: We plan for Bogart’s Gin to be on the shelves in time for Christmas.

~

Visit the following websites for more information on Bogart’s Gin and Humphrey Bogart:

http://humphreybogart.com/

http://www.bogartspirits.com/

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