The Endeavour Archives: SWAY also previewing PREY

NOTE: Please be aware that the following interview contains spoilers for SWAY (S2:03), ARCADIA (S3:02) and episodes of the original Inspector Morse.

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: 4KX

“A policeman’s lot is not a happy one, I’m told. But the lot of a policeman’s wife hardly gets a mention. But while I’ve been out running around, nabbing villains and generally playing silly buggers… the real brains of the outfit has made a house a home, raised two children, our children. Seen ‘em off to school each morning, clean and smart. And somehow, even with all that to do, there’s always been a hot meal for me when I get home. Twenty-five years ago I got the best bit of luck any man ever had. The toast is… my Win.” – THURSDAY

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Part III:

SWAY

With special thanks to JS Kirstie

~

DAMIAN: Last Sunday we said a sad farewell to Jack Laskey. Should Little Pete ever find himself in Oxford again, would you find a way to write him back in the show?

RUSS:  Jack is a part of the Team Endeavour family forever.  So, naturally, I’d be delighted to see Peter Jakes back in Oxford should the opportunity arise.

In real life – Jack’s playing the lead in a fantastic show which shoots in Canada called Company X – and its production dates cross very heavily with ours.  It was possible for him to shoot the first half of this series, but his representation let us know through Susie – our casting director – that he would not be available going forward.  I was broken hearted to lose him, as we’d barely scratched the surface.  But – happily, he survived! – and you never know..?  Faces from the past have a habit of turning up in Oxford.

sun1044DAMIAN: So SWAY, I really love this film. It’s up there with my absolute favourites FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, HOME and NEVERLAND. We all know that you have mastered the art of the “whodunnit” but like FIRST BUS, SWAY explicitly showcases your ability to juxtapose a detective thriller with beautifully written, character-driven romantic drama. The scenes between Thursday and his old war sweetheart Luisa Armstrong (played to heartbreaking perfection by Cecile Paoli), who haven’t seen each other in twenty years are just devastating. Here’s an example of what I mean:

THURSDAY: We were friends once.
LUISA: That’s the last thing we were. Friendship takes time. What did we have? Two months? Three? If that. There wasn’t room for friendship too.
THURSDAY: Don’t tell me. I was there. I remember everything. Everything. Every moment like nothing before or since. It’s here. Still. Forever. The scent of the pines. The sun on the water. So vivid. And you. All above everything, I remember you.
LUISA: Don’t.
THURSDAY: Your eyes.
LUISA: You can’t say these things. You can’t, not to me.
THURSDAY: I’ve no-one else to say them to.

sun1025sun1024sun1024a“I’ve no-one else to say them to” – still brings a tear to my eye! Of course, all this is particularly heartbreaking since Thursday and wife Win are about to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary! Aside from all the blood and guts, are you a bit of an old softy really?

RUSS:  Well – thanks.  I’m delighted you liked SWAY.  I’m very fond of it too. I once worked in an old fashioned department store, and I suppose Burridges grew out of that.

sun1049There’s also a terrific Avengers story ‘Death at Bargain Prices’ – from 1965, I think — that has Steed and Mrs.Peel going undercover at a big London department store; which – though heightened in dramatic terms, and a pretty long way from Endeavourland, was a great spur visually.

However, it was the Carry On team, and Norman Wisdom, I had in mind when I was putting it together.  I just wondered what would happen if you recast those almost stock characters // archetypes, and played them straight – rather than for comedy.  ‘Carry On Strangling.’

In my mind at least there was as much of Kenneth Connor’s frustrated ‘Phwoarrr!’ underpinning Joey Lisk as there was Michael Caine’s ‘Alfie’.  You can probably cast the rest with the remaining Carry On stalwarts yourself.

sun1042Anyway, there’s something about such places out of hours – when you’re doing a late night stock-take, say, or laying out stuff for a new display, or a sale – when most of the lights are out, and the escalators have been turned off…  The manikins in shadow…

sun1049aThat was my one regret about SWAY – no escalators!  But, swings and roundabouts…  And the really exciting thing (for a geek like me) is that the location we used for Burridges is the same store that appears in the opening scenes of the Boulting Brothers’ ‘TWISTED NERVE’ – with Hywel Bennett and Haley Mills…

And this is where it all all gets a bit Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  Because, it was Bernard Hermann who composed the grating whistling theme to ‘TWISTED NERVE’ — that Quentin Tarantino later rolled out in Kill Bill.  From Bernard Hermann it’s but a step to his frequent collaborator Mr.Hitchcock.  And the whole thing comes full circle via FRENZY through Billie Whitelaw and (good old Bob Rusk himself) Barry Foster, who both appear in TWISTED NERVE. The necktie strangler was clearly a cousin of the stocking killer.  And back to Morse via Barry Foster in ‘The Last Enemy’.  So…

sun1054By the way — Le Minou Noir was a gift of Camille Gatin’s – Producer on Series II — who, as you probably guessed, is French.   I think I’d originally gone for Le Chat Noir as a brand name – but we couldn’t clear it.  Though the logo survived.

An old softy?  I don’t know.  I suspect a natural aptitude for cruelty would be closer to the mark.

DAMIAN: If Luisa, after the “Fredo, hold me. Once. For what we were” moment hadn’t have told Thursday never to come back, would he have continued to see her in secret?

RUSS: “The ‘what if’ game’s no good to any bugger.”  I know what I think, but I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive.

sun1021asun1021sun1020DAMIAN: There’s a lovely moment in which Thursday gently touches Luisa’s hair as they part from their final embrace. Was this scripted or an improvisation from Roger?

RUSS:  I don’t think it was scripted.  It might have been a suggestion of Andy’s – the director – but it’s just as likely to have been something improvised by Roger.

He likewise improvised the front end of Thursday’s farewell speech to Jakes at the pub in ARCADIA – the one that invokes all the Cowboy film titles.  That was all Rog.  And rather marvellous it was too.   They were light on dialogue on the floor to cover a camera move that Bryn had in mind, and for some reason couldn’t reach me or Sam Costin – so…  Cometh the hour — cometh the Allam.

DAMIAN: Another gem of a moment occurs shortly afterwards. Thursday returns home, hangs up the hat and coat and just stares silently at himself in the mirror. Mrs Thursday offers him stew and dumplings and he looks away from the mirror and at her – a moment – but what was he thinking?

RUSS:  Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

sun1018sun1019sun1019aHere’s this young man from cold grey old England and he finds himself literally parachuted in to this country of colour, dazzling sunlight and heat.  Sights, smells, tastes unlike anything he’s ever experienced before.  He’s living on his wits – death at his shoulder.  Hunted.  Running with the partisans.  Jeeping one step ahead of those who would kill him.  Aware that each day could be his last.  And he’s got Luisa working with him…

They were young.  Love and death.  Two faces on the coin of life.  The heart chooses.  I felt it made him human.  Had he known that she survived the massacre, he might never had come back to England.  But he didn’t – and so he came back and picked up the threads of his life. Made a go of it.  And it’s been a good life.  Win, and Joan and Sam.

sun1031I think that the realisation is there when he looks into the mirror.  This is who he is.

And it ties in to a warning from the Code that was drummed into us as kids when the 5th of November rolled around – “NEVER RETURN TO A FIREWORK ONCE LIT.”  Which was all of a piece with everything else that was going on in the story.  Strange on Patrol in civvies.  Endeavour and Nurse Hicks at the bus-stop, etc.

DAMIAN: Was Luisa’s fate always that which occurred on screen or were there other possibilities in your mind?

RUSS: (WARNING!  INSPECTOR MORSE SPOILERS FOLLOW!) No – it was always going to be a tragic ending.  The jumping off point was DEAD ON TIME – and the Morse/Susan Fallon axis. Lewis finding the cassette tape – and disposing of it.  I thought it might be interesting to turn that coat inside out – and make it Thursday who had the romantic history with a suspect.

sun1015In early drafts of SWAY, I think right up until the readthrough draft – ENDEAVOUR kept the contents of Luisa’s letter from THURSDAY.  Shielded him from the pain it contained.  As with Lewis and the cassette tape.  But Shaun wasn’t comfortable with that.  He didn’t feel he had the right to keep something like that from Thursday.  And so the final few scenes were rejigged to the version we went with.

SUN1014ADAMIAN: I don’t think I’ve seen Cecile in anything before, how did she come to be cast in the part?

RUSS:  Cecile was brought in by Susie Pariss.  And if you ever watched Bergerac you will certainly have seen her.  She was terrific.  Thought she invested the whole thing with great dignity and extraordinary depths of hidden sorrow.

sun1022DAMIAN: I understand that there is a cast read-through for all the scripts before filming begins, what was the reaction to the first draft of SWAY, particularly from Roger Allam?

RUSS:  I think Roger was pleased with it.  Something ‘meaty’ – as he’d describe it — for him to get his teeth into.  Read-throughs are typically our last chance to tinker with the script before its issued as a Shooting Draft.  They usually take place at the front end of the week between shoots – and I have until Friday to turn around any late thoughts or changes arising from the read.  Sometimes it’ll be a production thing – a location or a scheduling issue that’s not going to work for us.  But we always have the Network in attendance, and they point up any plot or dialogue things they’re not happy with – and likewise with Shaun and Rog.  We read the script through, then hunker down for a couple of post mortems.  One with the broadcaster – line changes, etc., points of contention – and then one with the boys.  The director sits in on both.

DAMIAN: Was there ever a conscious decision either by yourself or Roger that there should be a very Thursday-heavy film that explored his past in such detail?

RUSS:  Yeh – I’d wanted to see a bit more of Thursday’s past life.  It had been kicking around in the back of my head even on Series I – and I think I’d mentioned it to Rog even then.   I thought it would be interesting if we muddied the water a bit.  Filled in some of the blanks.   I like characters that are carrying some baggage.   Some folk got a bit cross about it – and thought his involvement with Luisa diminished him in some way.  I didn’t.  Clearly.

I think I mentioned previously – I didn’t want Endeavour – as a character — to be some sort of sexless, neutered, teenybopper fantasy that just held hands and recited Baudelaire over buttered muffins.  And it was the same with Thursday.  He’s lived a life.

SUN1014DAMIAN: As straight as a die. Decent. Unafraid. Those are your words to describe DI Fred Thursday. You once told me that you have known people with his qualities, could you tell us who they were please?

RUSS:  My old man – principally.  Fred Thursday’s war bears a more than passing resemblance to his.  Others of his class and generation.  His brothers.  Mining stock from the Valleys of South Wales.  Some great-uncles on my maternal side who fought in the Great War.  Lancashire Pals.  Signed up under-age.  Out of the mill and into the trenches.

sun1026DAMIAN: There’s a piece of music that plays throughout SWAY including a scene between Thursday and Luisa and the when Huggins tries to strangle his final victim. It took me a while to place it but I went through my John Barry collection and realized it was very similar to his music score for The Ipcress File. Is this an original piece by Barrington and if so, the Barry influence can’t be a coincidence surely?

RUSS:  I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast.  But Barrington’s not much minded to pastiche, so it seems unlikely.  I’m not sure if you’re talking about the ‘record’ that the killer puts on.  In the UK transmission that was Dean Martin’s version of ‘SWAY’ from which the story took its title, but we couldn’t get clearance for the International version, and that includes DVD and iTunes versions – so, it was substituted…  I’m pretty sure it was a library piece.

DAMIAN: Well, the piano has stopped and the beer has run dry, please tell us what you can about tonight’s film, PREY…

RUSS:   Hmm.  Past and future brush shoulders.  To which end I’m indebted to our Line Producer Helga Dowie for making sure we had the right location.  There’s a very loose connection to Joss Bixby’s ‘Belvedere Set’.  It’s quite a pastoral piece.  Not much more I can tell you on this one.   Except of course…  be afraid.

EndeavourPREY~

Every life holds one great love. One name to hold onto at the end. One face to take into the dark…
– Luisa Armstrong

1008Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

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The Endeavour Archives: NOCTURNE also previewing ARCADIA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES #7

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~

With thanks to Hilary Bray

Camille Pleyel

and Wynnie Stoan

~

SO, last week I was telling you about the eleventh day of shooting and the first on location in Oxford for Series 3 – Film 1: RIDE. You’ll forgive me if I didn’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers but I hope to rectify that now the episode has been broadcast.

Radcliffe Square was the first of the day’s three location shoots. Rehearsals and sound checks etc. were all well underway by the time I got there at 08:22. Remarkably, considering the scene only lasts just over two minutes in the final cut that you will have seen last Sunday, it took until 10:43 to get the required footage. But then, despite the promise of spring (12 April 2015), it was bloody cold and windy – so much so that they had to stop filming because Shaun’s eyes were watering. Indeed, I don’t think I ever expected to see Endeavour Morse jogging on the spot outside the Bodleian to keep warm.

However, in addition to the weather, cast and crew had to contend with various obstacles including unruly cyclists and a particularly angry delivery man – all determined on making a cameo appearance. It is testament to the good natured family atmosphere enjoyed by both cast and crew that they all remained so humorous and patient – although, since I’m posting this on a Sunday, I won’t reveal what Roger said when confronted by a group of snap-happy tourists hell-bent on a selfie or two.

Needless to say, a lot of cheese and pickle sandwiches were eaten that morning. Anyway, more of this later. I’ve also included a full transcript of the scene in question at the end of the following interview as there is a particularly lovely moment between Endeavour and Thursday which was sadly cut from the final edit. For now though, here’s the second part of an exclusive interview as we continue to explore series two while offering the odd glimpse of tonight’s film…

1052Part II:

NOCTURNE

DAMIAN: As with FUGUE (S1:02), the second film of series two also happens to be a horror/thriller story. Will tonight’s film ARCADIA continue the trend for series three?

RUSS:  The short answer is no.  There was a request to shake the Selection Box a little this time out — so that we didn’t get too predictable.  There is an ‘ENDEAVOUR does… (insert genre here)’ film amongst the four, but we have swapped the order around a little.

1100DAMIAN: We talked about your love of horror in one of our interviews last year and there are so many references again in NOCTURNE but would it be fair to say that THE INNOCENTS (1961), the work of M. R. James’ and the seventies GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS were particular inspirations for the mood and tone of this film?

RUSS:  All of those things.  PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK came up a bit too — in my discussions with the Director, such as they were.

1056DAMIAN: While we were doing our interview prior to the broadcast of NOCTURNE, you mentioned that the actual backstory regarding the Victorian murders sprang from a loose personal connection with the murder of Francis Saville Kent and an affectionate tribute to Dan McCulloch (producer of series one), could you elaborate on this please?

RUSS:  In the late 70s, I worked on a BBC dramatisation of the Constance Kent case which was shot in the West Country – as near as damn it to the original locations.  If I remember right – the cast had an anniversary supper – on the evening of the murder.

I suppose we were down there two to three months — across the summer.  Staying in various hotels.  One in the Quantocks had a touch of Fawlty Towers about it.  Not in the service – but in the 70s atmos.  Public telephone in the hallway – with a ‘hood’ for privacy!  This was an England where a glass of orange juice was often offered as a ‘Starter’.

Fawlty Towers’ ‘The Wedding Party’ with the flirty French guest who goes out in an evening to sample the delights of Torquay..?  Mad, but there’s something about the still, summer-night blackness beyond the entrance that absolutely nails what this hotel was like.

One of the locations we used was a house owned by a Headmaster at some school or other — I can’t remember where exactly — and, though a much smaller building, that had a feel of Shrive Hill House.  While the crew were filming outside, I had an explore of the servants’ quarters and attic.  It stuck in my head, and provided the jumping off point for Endeavour exploring the upper floors of Blythe Mount.

The tribute to Dan…    Well, he’s a Home Counties boy — and Dorking has some very pertinent personal associations for him.  It was a tease — the notion that he might end his days a hopeless rummy in a rooming house there.  In truth, I can think of no future for him that would be less likely.

1054DAMIAN: Morse tells us that “this place [Shrive Hill House/Blythe Mount School for Girls] is like a honeycomb; backstairs and concealed corridors…” which instantly reminded me of Poe, particularly the Corman film version of The Fall of the House of Usher (1960). While there’s an abundance of gothic elements and nods to the genre (note the Hammer Horror double-bill that gives Strange “the proper willies”) in some of your scripts, I thought that NOCTURNE, unlike FUGUE, was similar to The Hound of the Baskervilles in that it takes a detective famous for their logic and deductive reasoning and places them in an apparently supernatural setting which almost stretches the conventions of Morse to bursting point. While I, and I’m sure other “connoisseurs of the macabre”, loved every moment, were there any concerns that the audience might find it a little too Scooby-Doo?

RUSS:  I suppose it may have been a stretch for some, but I hoped we’d built up enough trust with the audience over the preceding films that they’d go with us.  Probably just me trying to have my penny and my bun.  But – for all the ghostly bells and whistles — we did try to play fair by the rules of the whodunit.

It’s interesting that you reference The Fall of the House of Usher.  Though Blythe Mount didn’t crumble into the tarn, in the original, early drafts of NOCTURNE, the school went up a raging blaze – Endeavour hunting for Bunty and the killer through the smoke and flames; an ending like so many Hammer Horrors – but, the director wasn’t keen.  So…

1055DAMIAN: Who is your favourite screen Sherlock Holmes by the way?

RUSS:  Oh – that’s hard.  Benedict Cumberbatch is doing great work, of course.  A Sherlock for the 21st century.  Modern and thrilling.

Perhaps it’s like the Doctor – every generation has its own Sherlock.  For someone of my years… Jeremy Brett is hard to trump.  One of Paget’s illustrations sprung to life.  I did see him and Edward Hardwicke do The Secret of Sherlock Holmes on stage, which was rather wonderful. But I remember when the first of the series went to air – JB’s brilliance notwithstanding, it was David Burke’s Watson that was the real great leap forward.  They redefined the relationship – after decades of a kind of ‘received’ performance from the what-what-what? school of Watson, David Burke restored his dignity.

Basil Rathbone was the Sherlock I grew up with as a kid, with the movies on re-run, so I’ve a great fondness for his portrayal.  That would have been the first Sherlock that properly registered with me.  Peter Cushing was terrific.

Blasphemous, perhaps, so say it softly, but I thought Robert Downey Jnr & Jude Law made a pretty decent fist of it in the two Guy Richie movies.  Jared Harris was a corking Moriarty.  And Eddie Marsan’s Lestrade…  On screen for all too brief a time, but not a second of it wasted.  But then Eddie Marsan’s work always has such integrity.  I don’t think he’s ever played a false moment.  You know – like Edmund Reid, or Fred Abberline – one didn’t become a Detective Inspector in Late Victorian London by being dull-witted.  I think you really feel that with Eddie Marsan’s portrayal.  That he could handle himself – intellectually and physically.

Nicol Williamson was interesting in The Seven Per Cent Solution, but a bit of a stressful watch. Hard to take your eyes off Alan Arkin’s Sigmund Freud, though.  Hard to take your eyes off Alan Arkin in anything.  Weirdly enough – it was Arkin’s turn in ‘Wait Until Dark’ I had in mind for the photographer in TROVE.  That sort of Paul Simon ‘do’?  A sort of… French Crop, is it?  But, sadly – the look fell by the wayside.

However…  ‘favourite’ Holmes…  I have a very special place in my heart for Christopher Plummer’s turn in Murder By Decree.  James Mason also gives a hugely entertaining old school Watson.  ‘You squashed my pea!’

Of course, like From Hell — it shadows the late Stephen Knight’s now much discredited hypothesis.  But the yarn spun, and the supporting cast…  Frank Finlay’s Lestrade; Donald Sutherland’s Robert Lees; Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir John Gielgud, and a cracking turn by David Hemmings…  together with a suitably creepy score and cracking production values, makes for an altogether irresistible two hours.   Great opening model shot of London skyline too.  If you haven’t seen it…  Great fun!

But he’s crime fiction’s answer to Hamlet, isn’t he?  It’s quite possible that the greatest Holmes may not have been born yet.

DAMIAN: I loved the moment when the author of “Plighted Cunning: An account of the Blaise-Hamilton murders”, Stephen Fitzowen (splendid Desmond Barrit), bangs on the door of the school and says in a very Lionel Grisbane sort of way, “Good Evening” which I almost expected him to follow with “I have returned…”. Was there a particular model for the character or an actor in mind to play him as you wrote the part?

RUSS:  Yeh – Desmond was great.  I think the stage direction in the shooting script featured an exterior establishing shot – which was Fitzowen getting out of a taxi, and framed in a halo of light from a lamp by the door – portable recording equipment in hand, standing in for Max Von Sydow’s suitcase.  But in the end – for scheduling reasons — this was never shot.

That whole sequence was intended to take place on a dark and stormy night.  Thunder. Lightning.  If you’re going to embrace the tropes..?  All or nothing at all.  But, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t convince the director to get behind it.  C’est la guerre.

1030The character was a nod to Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse – which featured a writer Owen Fitzstephan right at the heart of proceedings.   There was an adaptation of this in the 70s with James Coburn as ‘Ham Nash’, the Gumshoe; and everyone’s favourite troubled Jesuit — Jason Miller — as Fitzstephan (which was another happy connection.)

My memory is a dented and wonky sieve, but I think Fitzowen was originally several characters; including a trio of academics with an interest in parapsychology.  I don’t think I went as far as naming them Venkman, Spengler & Stanz, but that’s certainly what I was drawing on.  Just a bit of fun.  Seeing how they played out as dramatic characters, rather than comedic ones.  Sadly – due to space and budget – they ended up biting the bullet, and some of their material was grafted on to Fitzowen.

1036But he was a type, more than anything…  A touch of Ronnie Barker’s ‘Magnificent Evans’ in there.  Maybe even a bit of Ed Reardon.  Some of that… Neil Oliver is it?  The TV historian?  Some of that Celtic ‘WhooOOOOoo!’ in the delivery.  A chap, one suspects, who could invest even the most commonplace occurrence with a suggestion of the fey folk at work or the Gods at dice.  I’d love to hear him order breakfast.

It was a bit of a pig for poor old Des – especially the magic lantern show, which featured hideous amounts of unadulterated plot-spiel.  Lines like that are very difficult to get down – as there’s nothing to play off.  No cues.  But he did it wonderfully.

103310341035DAMIAN: Once again, this film features a plethora of cultural references including, in addition to those already mentioned, Lewis Carroll, Ian Fleming, Philip Larkin, Charles Perrault, P. G. Wodehouse and John Wyndham to name but a few. At what point do these occur to you, is it through the research and writing stage or do they forever reside within your consciousness rather like Simonides’ method of loci?

RUSS:  Mostly just flotsam and jetsam swilling around the cloaca maxima that serves for a mind.

DAMIAN: And is Plighted Cunning simply a reference to King Lear and, if so, was this used because of the story, like NOCTURNE, concerns themes of betrayal and justice regarding a father’s fortune?

RUSS:  I think – because I was drawing on the Murder at Rode (Road) Hill House – that I was trying to find a title that had an echo of Cruelly Murdered by Bernard Taylor.   That and Yseult Bridges’ The Saint With Red Hands – were our two main guidebooks to the case.  I think I was just trying to come up with a title that a rather florid character such as Fitzowen might have used, and it seemed to chime.  The Queens of the Golden Age plundered Shakespeare, so it felt right and fitting to follow their example.  One of those three in the morning decisions that’s hard to accurately recall after such a passage of time.

DAMIAN: I know you’re fond of walking, to what extent have your adventures manifested themselves into your scripts such as the Domesday Book (TROVE) and Holmwood Park Sanitorium (NOCTURNE) for example?

RUSS:  Quite a bit, I suppose.  You do see some odd things.  Long abandoned vehicles in unlikely places.   The caravans in NEVERLAND came from one I’d seen in a state of advanced disintegration.  It was on a regular route – and, over a couple of years, I just watched this thing gradually disappear.  Actually, when I first saw it, the caravan looked rather like the mobile home at the start of THEM!  Torn open.  Thankfully no fifteen foot ants came whiffling out of the tulgey wood.  But yes – I’m a sucker for the atmosphere of such places.

Holmwood Park first put in an appearance in LEWIS – Falling Darkness – and it seemed fun to fold it back into ENDEAVOUR in some way.  I think I read somewhere, or someone told me, about a place like Holmwood Park, not too far from Oxford, where undergrads that had burnt-out sometimes ended up.  A kind of proto-Priory.  Quite a lot of derelict medical facilities out there.  Nature reclaiming buildings.  Creeping decay.  Ruin.  Damp.  Fungi.  And there’s definitely a sense of frozen in aspic about some of them.  Time stopped.  Some of the larger sites – the staff social areas – clubs and canteens.  Press your nose up against the window and you can see cabinets still filled with old Darts trophies – shields and cups.  Round Robin Tennis fixtures – decades out of date.  Fantastic.

DAMIAN: There are close-ups of “Plighted Cunning” in NOCTURNE and we regularly see various shots of articles and clippings from The Oxford Mail. Given their detail and relevance to the plots, who actually writes these?

RUSS:  Sam Costin creates the text for these – and he’s an absolute genius at it.

10421041DAMIAN: Where are all the props such as Plighted Cunning and the autographed Rosalind Calloway LP (from FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK) stored?

RUSS:  In various prop-houses and storage facilities.

DAMIAN: How was Chopin’s Nocturne chosen?

RUSS:  It’s a favourite.  They’re all terrific, but something about the one we went with seemed to my ear even more eerie than its fellows.  And I thought if we could put that on a musical box…

DAMIAN: We talked about film noir last week so I was intrigued to discover there is actually a 1946 George Raft movie in that genre called Nocturne! – were you aware of this or is it just a coincidence?

RUSS:  It is just a coincidence.

DAMIAN: There are some lovely moments between Morse and Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers) and there has been an obvious attraction and chemistry between the two since the first series. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see them destined for a bit of slap and tickle or perhaps I should say a bit of how’s your father?

RUSS:   It’s an interesting relationship.  And the chemistry is rather lovely to watch.  I do know exactly how it’s going to evolve, but more than that…  I can’t say.

1049DAMIAN: Another scene which I adore was between Morse and Max after the young girl Maud Ashenden is murdered. Max says to Morse, “Adults, one takes the rough with the smooth. But this… you find this piece of work, Morse. You find whoever did that. For me, all right? You find them…”. An absolutely beautiful moment in which Morse expresses sympathy but also genuine surprise at Max’s unusual lamentation for a corpse. Was this purely because it was a child’s death or were there possibly hints that there might be other reasons that it resonated with Max to such an extent?

RUSS:  I thought it would be nice to see another side of Max.  The typically sanguine and unflappable pathologist undone by the brutal ruin wrought upon poor Maudie.  And Jimmy Bradshaw played it – as always — to perfection.  I don’t have a lot of room to cast as much light as I’d like to upon those most intimately involved with Endeavour – mainly for reasons of time, and the demands of unspooling the plot, but I hope I can give some clues here and there as to what makes them tick.  Nice for the actors to have something to play, rather than simply offering ‘just the facts, ma’am.’

1046aDAMIAN: In the absence of you actually telling us anything about tonight’s film ARCADIA, can you please say something clever and cryptic instead?

RUSS:   Well, we’ve done the Manufactory; the Department Store; and so this is – to some small degree – our ‘Ladybird Book of the Supermarket.’ A key player from Morse’s later adventures puts in an appearance.  And we touch on Endeavour’s childhood connection to Quakerism.  One door opens…

ARCADIA~~~

101. EXT. OXFORD LOCATION PARK BENCH [Radcliffe Square] – DAY 5

ENDEAVOUR and THURSDAY.

ENDEAVOUR: Didn’t you say that was Harry Rose’s business?

THURSDAY: Slots? In part. Harry Rose has been at it since the Devil was in short trousers. Oh — and it’s definitely Bixby by the way. Dr.deBryn was able to match his prints to a number of latents taken from the house. (digs out sandwiches) Right.

ENDEAVOUR: You’ve seen them? Cheese and pickle. The Belboroughs?

THURSDAY: All bar the tennis player. She stayed at the Randolph. The rest haven’t got a decent alibi between them for Bixby. Though your mate Anthony Donn says he was with Belborough the night Jeannie was killed. (a moment) You really think there’s a connection between Harry Rose and this bloke at the shooting gallery?

ENDEAVOUR: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just stumbling around.

THURSDAY: What you’re good at.

THURSDAY eats his sandwich – watches the world go by.

ENDEAVOUR: The first week I hardly slept. I didn’t know if I was going to be found hanged from the bars of the cell, or take a dive from the top walk. (off Thursday) Every night I expected to hear boots on the landing – the key in the lock – but nobody came by. A month. I didn’t know if you were alive or dead. That was the worst of it. No. Not quite. The worst was… Knowing it was my fault.

THURSDAY — appalled.

ENDEAVOUR: (CONT’D) I was too slow. My stupidity nearly left Mrs.Thursday a widow, and…

The thought is too much for him.

THURSDAY: I knew walking in to Blenheim Vale that I might not walk out. (That’s) The job, I suppose. Something bad like that? Sometimes you’ve to put all you are against all they’ve got. It was my decision. And I’d do it again without a second thought. Don’t ever blame yourself.

ENDEAVOUR: If I’d been quicker off the mark…

THURSDAY: You were there at the end. Nobody else. You had the chance to run. To look to your own neck. But you didn’t. You stood. A pinch like that, it’s not brain that counts. It’s guts. I won’t forget it. Ever. (a moment) You should eat something. You don’t eat enough. Here.

THURSDAY offers the other half of his sandwich. A moment — ENDEAVOUR takes it. Just two men, sharing a sandwich.

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE @ Damian Michael Barcroft

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE

Excuse the quality of some of these photos - I was cold too, shivering and my fingers not working.

Excuse the quality of some of these photos – I was cold too, shivering and my fingers not working.

Location2: Market Square

Location2: Market Square (11-13:50)

You just see the director, Sandra Goldbacher, in between Roger and Jack Laskey

You can just see the director, Sandra Goldbacher, in between Roger and Jack Laskey

Location 3: Just outside Shirburn Castle, Waltlington, Oxon

Location 3: Just outside Shirburn Castle, Waltlington, Oxon

e15

Filming began 16:32 and wrapped 18:30. A splendid day was had by all.

Interview and photos copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

All other images copyright © itv/Mammoth Screen

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The Endeavour Archives: TROVE also previewing RIDE

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES #47A

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

Images copyright © itv/Mammoth Screen

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to:

Anthony Aloysius St John

Sam Costin

& George Gathercole

PROLOGUE:

‘BACK TO WORK’

12 APRIL 2015: It’s early Sunday morning and my special “K” and I are driving through Oxford. For me, having never visited before, but knowing the city so well from literature, film and, of course, television, it’s a surreal and dreamlike experience. To give you an inkling of my exhilaration, we pass The Eagle and Child where I like to imagine J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis still sitting there conversing over drinks in the Rabbit Room. And, speaking of rabbits, who can explore Oxford without thinking of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the Liddell family? However, I’m not writing on behalf of the Oxford Tourist Board, and if I mention our excitement as we also drive past the Randolph Hotel, it might serve to tip the reader that I’m here on police business and I’ll surely get to the point sooner rather than later.

Today is the eleventh day of shooting for the first film of Endeavour series three but the first on location in Oxford. I arrive at Unit Base where the cast and crew have set up camp for the duration of the Oxford shoot. It’s neither glittering nor glamorous, indeed, it is after all, just a car park and one may be forgiven for believing they are about to witness the setting up of a car boot sale for the day rather than the production of a major ITV drama. However, there are one or two clues that I’m in the right place: a vintage AEC Renown double-decker bus circa 1967 (reg. FWL 371E) and just behind it, various location vehicles and trailers – some of which brandish the likeness of the Mammuthus primigenius.

It is now precisely 08:00 and I meet script editor Sam Costin who is enjoying his breakfast until I disturb him (Sam has script edited every single Endeavour film thus far and really does know where the bodies are buried!). As we make our way to Radcliffe Square, the first of the day’s three locations, Sam asks me if Russ has told me anything about today’s shoot. No. He didn’t say and I didn’t ask. I wouldn’t ask although it was obvious what he was referring to and surely everyone who’d seen the shocking events of the series two grand finale was wondering the same thing.

Both Sam and K smile. In trying to take everything in, I must be the last to notice and can’t see the wood for the trees – an army of technicians and artists: art department and props, assistant directors, cameramen, grip, sound and make-up (hello Irene!) all busy blocking my view until magically disappearing as rehearsals come to an end and cameras roll…

Oxford’s finest back to work. And I was too! Last year I had the privilege of interviewing the writer and executive producer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, to discuss all the films from the pilot up to the end of series one. I’m very pleased and proud that these exclusive interviews will continue as we explore the second series while offering the odd peek into what to expect from the third

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE @ Damian Michael Barcroft

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE © Damian Michael Barcroft

© Damian Michael Barcroft

© Damian Michael Barcroft

PART I:

‘TROVE’

DAMIAN: Russ, the first series was broadcast between 14 April – 5 May 2013 and the second from 30 March – 20 April 2014. Why has series three taken so long to reach the screens?

RUSS:  Blame the World Cup.  Rio 2014 knocked the TV schedule out of shape, and meant we weren’t able to go into our usual production/broadcast slot.  So – you’ll have to excuse me if my recollections are even more unreliable than usual.  Production began on Series II almost three years ago now – and I would have started writing them even before that.  Apologies in advance.

DAMIAN: How did Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor help inspire the story for Trove?

RUSS: They took part in an OUDS [Oxford University Dramatic Society] production of Marlowe’s ‘DOCTOR FAUSTUS’ – and the Oxford City Police were charged with looking after them. Early drafts had Strange and Jakes on protection duty – making sure nobody ran off with Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond ring.  The opening sequence was intercut with the play in performance. ‘Stipendium peccati, mors est.’  I’d planned to have Endeavour trading Shakespearean quotations with Burton in the pub, but given when we shot, we just couldn’t make the timeline fit convincingly. DOCTOR FAUSTUS was on in… February, I think – and we weren’t shooting until Spring.  Leaves on trees, etc.  So… It had to go. But, the theme of the play, the notion of an unholy bargain – what price a soul? — survived.

DAMIAN: There’s a visual reference of their visit to Oxford that still survives the cut?

RUSS: When the Barbara Batten by-election posters go up, you might just glimpse a Playbill on the wall…

DAMIAN: It must have been a painful tug on the old purse strings to open the series with a parade through Oxford celebrating 900 years since our islands fell beneath the Norman Yoke, what were the logistics of closing Broad Street and were there a few raised eyebrows from the money men?

RUSS: They weren’t too highly raised. The Mammoths wanted something eye-catching for the opening. And 1066 to 1966 seemed too happy a coincidence to ignore. Probably all the rest of it – the Wolvercote Horde, etc., was spun from that. 1966 seemed to be very much about Britain re-assessing its identity, and its place in the world. A touch of Neo-Victorianism/Edwardianism for the Dedicated Followers of Fashion.  Adam Adamant Lives!

We shot on a Sunday, so as not to disrupt Oxford too much.  We had a good number of supporting artistes, but – as with the crowd scenes in ROCKET — a lot of it is smoke and mirrors.

1308DAMIAN: So it’s May 1966. Four months have passed since the end of series one in which Morse has been “counting paperclips at County” and Thursday has a spring in his step as Morse finally returns to Oxford City Police. How much of this episode, or indeed the whole of series two, existed in your mind as you wrote the final draft of HOME and what, if anything, changed along the way?

RUSS: When we got to the end of Series 1, we didn’t know if there would be a Series 2. We never do. It’s all about the figures. I think we got the official word from the Network quite some time after HOME went out. I suspect I had some of it in mind. I’m afraid that isn’t a terribly helpful or illuminating answer. It’s just difficult to recall after such a passage of time. I’m sure three years doesn’t sound very long, but TROVE is eight films ago. These things occupy every waking thought for the duration of production, but as soon as it’s done I’m afraid most of it tends to get wiped from the memory banks to make room for the next.  Either that or the mind tends to forget pain! Perhaps we should do our Series 3 Q&A when we get to the end of this one!

But, for what it’s worth, I think – should we come back for a Series 4, and assuming stuff doesn’t get vetoed – that I’ve already got all the stories for that run, and possibly the one after, already fairly well nailed down.  Which is probably tempting fate, and now we’ll be ignominiously cancelled and cast into outer darkness.

1313DAMIAN: While discussing the story arc for the first series in one of our previous interviews, you said that you absolutely know how Endeavour will end and that the final scene is actually already written. You also stated that you have certain key points mapped out for all the major characters. I’m wondering if that end is still the same and if any of the aforementioned key points appeared in series two?

RUSS: Certainly – I’ve got the way-points mapped out. And the end is still the same. Series 2 – what were the way-points? Well – Morse & Monica. A ‘proper’ relationship. The first glimpse of the Brotherhood. Thursday’s past – which I’m sure we’ll get to when we look at SWAY. Some have made this new series. Others haven’t. There was one reveal that was written for this series, but which, in the end, we couldn’t schedule. It’ll keep. Other things…  some of the events in this series were decided by things happening off-screen – artistes’ availability in the main. Again – blame FIFA.

09520951DAMIAN: Strange takes his Sergeant’s exam at the end of series one and the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that he was on his way to becoming the Chief Superintendent we know and love from the original series. However, you quickly establish that he failed by “three lousy points” early in TROVE. Was this the original plan or did you reconsider his timeline and think it was too early for his first promotion?

RUSS: No – it was the original plan. More of which will be revealed… It would have been too easy – and too obvious – to have Strange take the Exam at the end of Series 1, and attain his stripes – purely on merit — by Series 2. The scene between Strange and Endeavour in the pub – a man can’t serve two masters – was key, really.

1318DAMIAN: We’ve spoken at length about the influence of and your passion for the horror genre in the past with particular reference to FUGUE. In TROVE however, there were a few moments in which I was reminded of the old noir films and literature such as the work of Chandler, Hammett and the Bogie movies but was there the particular and more British influence of Graham Greene and his Brighton Rock or The Third Man in mind while writing TROVE?

RUSS: It was very much ENDEAVOUR does noir. So far as we can. It’s something I’ve tried – with various degrees of success and failure – to nod to across the show, as it’s a genre of which I’m hugely fond. The lonesome highway with the gas station/motel is pure Americana. Equal parts Hopper and James M Cain. I think the original stage directions had a fizzing neon sign, and Jim Reeves on the Jukebox/Radio… but in the end… Budget.

1320The thing with a straight whodunit is that it can teeter over into becoming just a dry puzzle – a mental exercise with very little heart or emotional heft.  “Where were you on the night in question?”  And that’s fine if you’ve got a grey afternoon with a Golden Age novel – you can go back and forth, flicking through the pages, checking out a character’s alibi, seeing if their story stands up – but for something you’re watching, it’s got to have – for me at least – some kind of drive and forward momentum.  It’s got to be ABOUT something. It’s got to have a story.

13251327As for Graham Greene…  I’d be very pleased if anything we did came within hailing distance of his greatness. The Third Man is a touchstone – Roger Allam is a massive fan too.  It wasn’t Rosalind Calloway by accident.

But yes – I was after a very noir feel with TROVE – the world of the Private Eye; untrustworthy cops; dodgy show-business types, &c..

Roger in search of Harry Lime!

Roger in search of Harry Lime!

DAMIAN: Morse tells us he doesn’t vote in this episode but I wonder if you’re ever tempted, after a glass of Blue Nun perhaps, to infuse any of the characters in Endeavour with your own personal politics?

RUSS: Alas, no Nuns for me – Blue, Red, Singing or otherwise.  I suppose all the characters, stories, etc., are infused to some degree.

DAMIAN: If there was one disappointment I had with this series, it was that I was sorry not to see more of Morse’s flat from the first series. It was dank, melancholy and a little oppressive – very Miss Havisham but on a budget and perfect for young Morse. Why did you decide that it was important for him to be in new lighter and more spacious digs for series two?

RUSS:  I think it was principally a matter of logistics/location availability.  But also, I needed him to be somewhere he could run into Monica across the hallway. And I don’t think we had that option in his first place. There’s an ebb and flow in Endeavour’s fortunes. Sometimes he’s ahead.  As often as not, he’s behind. One thing that didn’t make the cut in Series 2 was the notion that his father had left quite considerable gambling debts – and that Endeavour was paying them off out of his wages, a bit at a time.  However – it does get a bit of a nod this time out.

0956DAMIAN: Apart from Adele Cecil (Judy Loe) in the Inspector Morse episodes Death Is Now My Neighbour and The Wench Is Dead, Nurse Monica “with a moped” Hicks (Shvorne Marks) is the only other onscreen and ongoing relationship for Morse thus far. What’s the connection between Morse and Monica that was perhaps missing from his previous romance with Alice Vexin (Maimie McCoy) in ROCKET?

RUSS: I think Alice had an idea of Endeavour. An ideal. The one she couldn’t have. And then – once she’s had her heart’s desire, she probably realized that he wasn’t the man she’d made him in her mind. Monica just saw him as who he was; a man – and a rather damaged one at that. She found him at a low point, and helped get him back on his feet.

DAMIAN: Matthew Copley-Barnes (from the Inspector Morse episode The Infernal Serpent played by Geoffrey Palmer) features in TROVE this time played by Jamie Parker. When a character from the original series occasionally makes an appearance in Endeavour (fans will also remember The Last Enemy’s Alexander Reece in FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK for example), are they under contract to play them again should their services be required in future episodes?

RUSS: No – alas – the guest players are brought on board for one film at a time. Obviously, we’d go back to them if at all possible. I wouldn’t want to recast. So if they weren’t available, or felt disinclined to come back, then I’d have to rework the idea. It’s something I’m sure we’ll do at some point – it was mooted on this new series – as I’m keen to develop the idea of our Oxford as a living place, where you’re quite likely to bump into people you’ve met before, but in the end we just ran out of sky. Also – as with I.M. – some of our guests are already proving to be the leading lights of the next generation. So, I suspect getting some of them back would be a tougher go – second time around.

1352DAMIAN: It can’t be easy to cast a young Geoffrey Palmer or Barry Foster, do you have any input or preference as to who plays these characters?

RUSS: Some. And probably not so much as a megalomaniac would find agreeable. Susie Parris – our Casting Director — pulls off wonders and miracles for us. The budget allows about 22 speaking rôles per film, including our regulars – and Susie manages to find maybe forty to fifty actors per series that make the cut. You can probably multiply than number by anywhere between two to ten, depending on the part, to get a rough estimate of the number of actors that audition – or, as they call it nowadays, ‘interview’. I don’t know how Susie does it – short of being an actual angel. The patience of Job. How she puts up with us…

As for casting heritage characters. It’s walking a tightrope a lot of the time. It can be tricky when it comes to acknowledging Morse’s future history. People want to feel they’re doing ‘something new’ or breaking fresh ground. Directors have enough to think about without my relentless fanboi gripes – and actors don’t want to do an impression, or some sort of received performance. So…

For me, and I suspect for a section of the fandom — the devil is in the detail. Some you win. Some you don’t.

I’m never left in any doubt that too much of what could be perceived as fan-service might alienate those who have come to Endeavour on its own terms. So that’s something else one has to try to navigate. But I’ve never approached it with the notion of – ‘Oh, this will please the cognoscenti’. Rather it’s there are characters from IM that caught my imagination as a viewer that I’d like to see in different circumstances. Some of them can be quite slight encounters. The merest brushing of shoulders.  If I had ENDEAVOUR having stories with these characters of such weight that they couldn’t possibly forget one another over the intervening 20-odd years, then it would be doing a retroactive disservice to IM. Hopefully there’ll be some audience members who were too young for IM first time round – and Endeavour will lead them to the source of all good things. If they then arrived and were asking themselves – ‘Why doesn’t Morse remember this person?’ or ‘Why is that character pretending not to know Morse?’ then I’d have failed.

As it is – I think with all the characters we’ve deployed, we’ve respected that Prime Directive. At the end of TROVE – Thursday tells Endeavour that Copley-Barnes had told him he would ‘remember him’ – and Endeavour responds with something along the lines of  ‘A vainglorious fool like that? Somehow, I doubt it.’ And I don’t think that Copley-Barnes would have remembered Endeavour. Far too self absorbed to keep a lowly Detective Constable in mind for twenty-five years.

Copley-Barnes was Alma Cullen’s wonderful creation, and played to perfection by Geoffrey Palmer. So – he was just too fascinating a monster to resist getting out of the dressing up box.  As it was, Jamie Parker – who I’d seen play Hal to Roger Allam’s Falstaff – had just been working with Geoffrey Palmer, and so grabbed the challenge with both hands, and a certain amount of relish. Despite all the foregoing – and for good or ill, Series 3 probably features — in terms of heritage characters and conceits — far more connective tissue to IM than the previous two.

DAMIAN: Morse makes some powerful enemies in TROVE and Strange is initiated into a certain ancient fraternity. Will there be more secret handshakes in the future?

RUSS: They haven’t gone away. But I think they’ll be a little less overt in their machinations going forward. Licking their wounds, probably. Biding their time.

DAMIAN: We’ve previously talked about the use of music in the show and I know from my interview with Barrington Pheloung that he doesn’t care much for Wagner! Indeed, because of this, Wagner was sidelined in the original Inspector Morse in favour of Mozart. However, you told me that “time will cast ever darker shadows upon his heart, and that will be reflected in his evolving musical taste”. Will Wagner finally get his just desserts on the turntable?

RUSS: I would hope so.

DAMIAN: What more can you tell us about tonight’s episode?

RUSS: Not much. It’s Easter Bank Holiday. And a funfair has come to town. It’s a whole bunch of notions – some drawn from the period, some not – hurled with wild abandon into the Endeavour blender. But it’s a very different story shape to anything we’ve done before. It started with Donald Campbell, and Bluebird… I had a relative who was there on the fateful day. And one hydroplane led to another. The 60s has most definitely arrived, and I guess it struck me at some point that the Psychedelic Age had something in common with another Age altogether. That there were fascinating parallels. From there it just kind of grew…

DAMIAN: And can we look forward to any “fragrant ladies”?

RUSS: Always. This first half of ’67 probably features a surfeit of them.

DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed.

RUSS: A pleasure, as always.

RIDE

~

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dmbarcroft.com

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ENDEAVOUR SERIES III: Full & unedited foreword

ENDEAVOUR – SERIES III

Foreword by Russell Lewis

1967… Oxford – All Change!

Blame the World Cup.   Not the 1966 campaign of blessed memory — touched on in SERIES II’s ‘NOCTURNE’ — but Rio 2014.  Such was the amount of air-time annexed by the tournament that the resulting shunt left no room in the schedule for the next quartet of Endeavour stories.  So it is that we find ourselves — the best part of two years later — picking up the narrative threads.  After such an intermission, a short refresher might be in order.

Previously, on ENDEAVOUR

When last we saw them, Detective Constable Endeavour Morse was languishing in a prison cell, having been arrested on suspicion of murdering Chief Constable Standish; while Detective Inspector Fred Thursday – shot in the line of duty – was being loaded into an ambulance, his life hanging by the slenderest of threads.  Both events arose from their investigation of a conspiracy to conceal dark deeds at a former Boys’ Home – Blenheim Vale.

Some – most – of the audience who were kind enough to convey to me their views on the 1966 series seem to have enjoyed, albeit in a masochistic fashion, the suspense engendered by the cliff-hanger.  One or two were less enamoured of such a departure from convention, and were not slow to chide.  In my defence, at the time none of us foresaw that there would be such a long delay before the respective fates of Oxford’s Finest could be revealed.  Mea culpa.

So.  What happened next?  Well, given that Endeavour Morse eventually rose to become a Detective Chief Inspector, it ought not to come as any great shock that his duties with the Oxford City Police – destined to become Thames Valley in 1968 – were at some point resumed.  But as to the when, how and why of it..?  Such is the issue at the heart of ‘RIDE’, the film that opens the batting for the new run.

Not all the answers will come at once.  However, in ways both great and small, the fallout from Blenheim Vale is destined to cast a long shadow…

As for Thursday…  It’s a matter of record that Roger Allam has been photographed in Oxford wearing his familiar chapeau gris, and it would be dishonest to pretend that he hasn’t filmed some material for us.  But whether this material is set in the story present, or in flashback, or – indeed – a projection of Endeavour’s mind’s eye — ‘Morse & Thursday (Deceased)’ — remains to be seen…

It’s no mistake that the first words uttered in SERIES III are ‘Oxford!  All change!’ – for the world has moved on.   We have covered some distance since the single standalone film that reintroduced ENDEAVOUR to the world.  Now, as Easter 1967 arrives, colour is seeping into our canvas, turning a pencil grey Britain into something phantasmagorical.  Indeed, June will see BBC2 transmit the first television colour pictures in the UK, as its outside broadcast team covers the All England Lawn Tennis Association championships.

Change, then – in and on the air.

Most notably for #TeamEndeavour – again, courtesy of the beautiful game — the main change has been a shift in our production schedule.  This is the first series of ENDEAVOUR that we have shot during the summer – if the four soggy months between May and August 2015 can truly be said to qualify as such.

It’s been strange to find ourselves in such a season, for whether it was the long light of a cool English evening casting a golden glow upon Radford’s Brewery in ‘THE SINS OF THE FATHERS.’, or the shot (one of my favourites in all the films) of Morse & Lewis standing in a corn-field in ‘WHO KILLED HARRY FIELD?’, my memories of watching ‘Inspector Morse’ invariably involve a high summer landscape.

Context is all, but there is a line towards the end of D.H.Lawrence short story ‘The Man Who Loved Islands’ that has haunted me since I first read it, nearly forty years ago.  “ ‘It is summer,’ he said to himself, ‘and the time of leaves.’ “

So let it be for ENDEAVOUR…

The other major change on the Production side is that we have moved house.  Our last incarnation of Cowley Nick was contained in a rather imposing Victorian pile alongside the Thames in Berkshire.  Built for a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, it passed later into the hands of the family that owned the sprawling paper mill (now derelict) in the grounds of which it now stands.

The factory floor is where Endeavour’s flat and the Thursdays’ dulce domum resided.   The mill itself was a Health & Safety Officer’s nightmare – and bitterly, but BITTERLY cold.   Despite the heat from the lighting rig, Ice cubes were the order of the day.  Sucked on by the actors before a scene, lest their breath steam in the chill air and give the game away.  Cast and crew bore their discomfort personfully, but shed few tears to hear the mill had been earmarked for demolition and residential redevelopment (affordable homes for key-workers, no doubt).  Nevertheless, for the third time in as many series, we found ourselves homeless.

For SERIES III – we have been billeted in a former MoD/Tri-Services establishment.  Ghostly hints of its previous life abound.  A board greets visitors at the top of the stairs, and gives notice of the ‘DAILY TERROR THREAT LEVEL’.  Stuck forever now on ‘SEVERE’, the Production Team found it reflected their mood all too often.

Typically, the last five to seven days of any ENDEAVOUR shoot take place at our production base – where our standing sets reside.   The MoD site has a good number of large empty spaces – most notably the gymnasium – where the main CID offices of Cowley Police Station, and, also, Endeavour’s latest residence were constructed.

Elsewhere across the site – our brilliant design team have cannibalized, dispossessed and otherwise generally repurposed sundry rooms to create, amongst other key locations, Bright’s Office; cells and interview rooms.  One particular delight is that Max deBryn’s mortuary is now housed in the former canteen kitchen — the smell of gravy overtaken by the tang of formaldehyde.  To have let all those ready made white tiled walls go to waste?   That really would have been a crime.

1967, then.  The spring and eventual Summer of Love. It’s funny, Dan McCulloch – who produced the single and SERIES I, and who returns to the flight roster this time as Executive Producer – pointed out to me that each story in SERIES I was in one way or another about ‘family’.  SERIES II – again in retrospect – proved to be about ‘children’.  It is only in writing this foreword that I realise the four films here all deal to a greater or lesser extent with love, in all its guises, and disguises.

Part of my own prep (for which read ‘procrastination’ and ‘displacement activity’) for SERIES III involved assembling a number of ‘mood boards’ for each film – collages of photographs drawn from newspaper reports, brand designs, album sleeves, portraits, and stills from movies released across the year in question – visual aides-memoire, and things upon which once could draw for inspiration.

Staring down from my walls for the duration were – amongst others — Twiggy by Bailey.  Donald Campbell’s Bluebird.  Mary Quant.  A portrait of ‘Two sporting brothers’, also by Bailey.  Hendrix.   The original Factory Girl – Edie Sedgwick.  Terry & Julie – not crossing over the river, but in costume as Frank Troy and Bathsheba Everdene in John Schlesinger’s film of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’.  (Hardy, incidentally, a poet much beloved by Mr.Dexter.)   All, some, or none of whom put in an appearance in proceedings.

Yet, there, also, amongst the budding flower power and colourful joie de vivre, the portraits of three men.  Joe Meek.   Joe Orton.   Brian Epstein.  Each met an untimely and tragic end in 1967.  Had their deaths happened in Oxford – all three would have been investigated by Endeavour.  Their inclusion in the gallery served as a reminder that even in the middle of a Summer of Love one does not have to look far to find the eternal Ruffian on the Stair.

There is a further link in the foregoing to Endeavour and the Morse-verse – Con O’Neill, who memorably portrayed Joe Meek in “Telstar,” also played, equally memorably, Paul Matthews, scion of the Abingdon Gang, in the INSPECTOR MORSE film ‘PROMISED LAND.’  “They’re all villains.  The whole Matthews family.”

Without foreknowledge being requisite to enjoyment or understanding, compared to Series I and 2, there is probably more connective tissue that links ENDEAVOUR 1967 to INSPECTOR MORSE – and, indeed, LEWIS — than hitherto.   Characters and places – minor and major – are recast here, and viewed afresh through their younger selves.  Friends and foes.  The Mateys – as the fandom self-identifies — should have fun identifying familiar names.

Bigger.  Bolder.  Brighter.  Series III has – like Postman Pat – really ‘pushed the envelope’.  The ambitions set down in the scripts have been our most technically demanding to date – and yet under the stewardship of this term’s new Head Boy – Producer Tom Mullens – Production has risen to the challenge, and then some…

Music – always an integral part of the Morse universe – features here too.  We had hoped to use Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ in one sequence, but sadly his estate declined permission.  I’m told this was because the scene in question featured some recreational drug use…  ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.’

Of course, no consideration of 1967 could be complete without reference to four young men from Liverpool.  Indeed, The Beatles have been casting a shadow across Endeavour-world from the beginning.  ‘GIRL’ was titled for their single of the same name, and the world of pain in Lennon’s pre-chorus intake of breath – ‘still you don’t regret a single day.’  And the Traffic Warden present when a private investigator makes his vertical entrance in ‘TROVE’ – though getting ahead of ourselves – was likewise a nod to ‘Lovely Rita’.

Esteemed broadcaster and musicologist Paul Gambaccini said recently that he would direct anyone wanting a crash course in The Beatles to 1967 – a year that began with the double-A side of ‘Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields’ (denied the Number 1 slot by Englebert Humperdinck’s “Please, Release Me” – those pondering Endeavour’s incarceration should hold that thought!); the release of “Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”; the global broadcast of ‘All You Need Is Love’; the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ EP – and the Boxing Day broadcast of its accompanying film; and the Xmas Number 1 of ‘Hello/Goodbye’.  As Mister Gambaccini observed – such an output would have been a career for many.  For The Beatles, it was twelve months’ work.

Our key text, then, in many ways, proved to be ‘Sgt.Pepper’ – ‘I read the news today, Oh boy…’

FILM 1: ‘RIDE’ (Directed by Sandra Goldbacher) features both ‘a lucky man who made the grade’, and, with its fairground associations, might just as easily have been titled ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr.Bright’ – for it is Easter, and the Bank Holiday funfair has pitched its tents on Cowley Green.  The Police investigate the disappearance from the Ghost Train attraction of a ‘clippie’ with the Town and District bus service.   And, of course, Harry the Horse dances the waltz.

Having looked at a manufactory in ‘ROCKET’, and the world of the department store in ‘SWAY’, FILM 2: ‘ARCADIA’ i(Directed by Bryn Higgins) is our Ladybird Book of the Supermarket.  Change – in Oxford and in the wider world beyond, as the Rhodesia Crisis – in the words of the late, great Jake Thackray…  ‘New UDI Washes Whiter…’ – and the British Trade Boycott provides some part of our backdrop.

Change also at Cowley nick.   Good fortune for some.  Ill luck for others.  Arrivals and departures.  Entrances and exits.  Amongst the former, ARCADIA marks the introduction of WPC Shirley Trewlove – played, delightfully, by Dakota Blue Richards — who makes a very welcome addition to the ranks of the Oxford City Police.

While in FILM 3: ‘PREY’ (Directed by Lawrence Gough) the Arab-Israeli Six Day War commands the attention of the world, ENDEAVOUR, together with the rest of Oxford’s Finest, has something else on his mind entirely.  A Scandinavian au pair has gone missing after an evening at Night School.  The resultant investigation brings Endeavour to Wytham Woods, and an adjacent country estate where he will brush shoulders with the future…

Our last story for this run is FILM 4: ‘CODA’ – (Directed by Ollie Blackburn) in which characters from two Inspector Morse films are brought together, and Endeavour is examined in more ways than one.  They say if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your intentions.  My original design was that SERIES III should begin and end with a funeral.  The best laid plans.  As things fell out, I did get my two funerals – albeit not the two I was expecting.   No wedding.   As yet.

One thing that does not change is the presence of Colin Dexter; who returns to make his traditional twinkling cameo appearance in each of the four films.  As sharp and erudite as ever, he always appears whenever we shoot in Oxford.  Of course, it could be a writer’s overactive imagination, but on such days – ‘Colin Days’ – it seems that all the cast and crew stand that little bit taller, shine just that little bit brighter, and strive to make their very best work even better.  Such is the ‘Dexter effect’.  Long may he continue to grace our efforts with his presence, for, as I think I’ve said before, an absence of Colin would be as unthinkable as the ravens leaving the Tower of London.

For those who enjoy spotting them, we have – as always – included our customary collection of intentional anachronisms and deliberate mistakes…  Answers on a postcard to the usual address.   B^)

I am – as ever – indebted to the talent, skill and creativity of an extraordinary collective of directors, cast and crew who once again spun my rough straw into something more; to the Maestro Barrington Pheloung; to Matthew Slater, who stepped admirably into the breech on ‘PREY’; to my fellow execs, the estimable Damien Timmer, & the redoubtable Dan MacCulloch; to Line Producer, the unsinkable Helga Dowie, who has been with us from the very beginning, and without whom…  And, finally, to our inexhaustible producer Tom Mullens, who bore the carnivore’s share of the heavy lifting with grace and good humour.

So it is that we take our leave of Endeavour — this time in June, at the turning point of the year.  “Hello/Goodbye” – The Beatles Christmas 1967 Number 1 — is yet to come, but its mood of one door closing as another opens, seems to have found expression across the entirety of the series, both in front of the camera – and behind it.

On which point, on behalf of all of #TeamEndeavour, I’d like to thank my brother-in-arms, Script Editor extraordinaire, Sam Costin.   After three series at Cowley nick, he has turned in his Warrant Card, and leaves Oxford (with a Congratulatory First) for pastures new.  At my side through thick, thin, and all too many late night conference calls, across each of these films his limitless creative genius has dug us out of more holes than it would take to fill the Albert Hall.  We shall miss him.

Whether we are, indeed, in the words of the Sgt.Pepper (Reprise) ‘Getting very near the end…’ rests, as always, with the audience and the Network, but I went along – as I tend to – for the last day’s shooting, and found myself between takes talking to Shaun Evans.  I happened to ask him which series of Endeavour had been his favourite.  Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, ‘This one.’   Who am I to argue with Morse?

I hope you enjoy the films.

Russ Lewis

November 2015

MIDNIGHT TRYST AND BLACK MAGNETISM: Ripper Street interview with Leanne Best

MIDNIGHT TRYST AND BLACK MAGNETISM

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with Leanne Best

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

My first interview with Leanne Best was in November 2013 as the second series of Ripper Street was broadcast on BBC1. While she was a respected, and indeed award-nominated stage actor, she was less well known to television audiences at that point despite screen credits that included Casualty, Wire in the Blood and Doctors. Since then however, and with appearances in such high-profile projects as The Worricker Trilogy, Lucan, Fortitude and, most recently, The Outcast and Home Fires to name but a few, there has been an explosion of love for the increasingly prolific Leanne who seems hell-bent on turning up in almost every TV show – not to mention a promising new career in the movies, having played the title role in last year’s The Woman in Black: Angel of Death and soon to be seen in some exciting new films that are either currently filming or in post-production.

I wanted to interview Leanne for a second time to discuss the third series of Ripper Street, on being a Hammer Horror Monster and breaking bread with Bryan Cranston. Most of all, however, I just wanted to speak to her again while she’s still answering my calls because I predict Leanne Best is going to be something of a star…

Damian: Hello again Leanne and thanks for doing this. So much has happened in your career since our first interview but the last time we chatted was over drinks at the Brown Bear while we drowned our sorrows lamenting the demise of Ripper Street. Not only has Ripper Street returned for a third series (with the promise of two more!) but you have managed to land roles in many well-received and much-admired television dramas, big-budget Hollywood films and, if all this were not enough, also been Willy Russell’s personal choice to star in the 35th anniversary stage production of Educating Rita! – what’s going on?

Leanne: Ah that’s all very lovely of you to say! There’s a fair bit going on at the minute… Second series of Homefires is underway and I’m filming a drama for the BBC in London.

Damian: How much of this success would you put down to the exposure gained from Ripper Street?

Leanne: Well it certainly didn’t do me any harm I’m sure! Ripper Street is such a classy production and so loved by its viewers. I felt very grateful to be in such good company across the board from the actors to the writing, the direction and design. The whole thing is impressive so to be a part of that I’m sure has served me well.

Damian: Before we discuss series three, I’d like to talk about your character Jane Cobden (daughter of Richard Cobden) of Bow and Bromley Division and the adopted candidate of Liberal and Radical Association for the London County Council Election. We first meet her around the time of the public meeting of electors in the Bromley Vestry Hall, Bow Road so, at a very rough guesstimate, I’d say this was Wednesday, January 14th 1890. Your character is, of course, based on the real Jane Cobden (1851 – 1947), who was indeed the first elected female councillor and is best remembered as a pioneer of the suffragette movement. Let’s remind ourselves of how she was introduced in the third episode of the second series, Become Man (written by Marnie Dickens)…

JACKSON: I just saw the damnedest thing. This woman I just passed in the street. No, scratch that. She was not a woman. Uh-uh. She was a goddess, Reid, to make even a heathen like you believe… You should have seen her. She had gentle eyes, perfect face and the body that one imagines under the…
REID: Yes. Thank you, Captain.
COBDEN: Oh, no, please – do continue on, sir.
REID: I apologise, Councillor Cobden. He is American and therefore lacking in manners or propriety.
COBDEN: Well, then, we shall get along famously.

Jane Cobden could have possibly been an overbearingly moralistic and righteous character but the way in which she is written, and indeed performed, is simply a joy to watch and, even in her first episode, there is an immediate chemistry between her and Reid. It must have been so much fun to play her?

Leanne: I love playing Jane. In reality she was quite a firebrand who bucked most trends of the time for a woman so that coupled with the writing allowed me to be quite free with her. Part of her attraction for Reid I think was her lightness and willingness to be open to what life has to offer.

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Damian: Another scene which I love and think is so indicative of your character is the following scene that comes towards the end of Threads of Silk and Gold (S2: 05 written by Toby Finlay):

REID: It is a rare thing to find a friend in this world, a true friend. Rarer still one that might become more. There are some that do and risk all for it and, even though the world and all its might may seek to snuff out their love they burn with it, fierce and bright, like the sun. The love that I have known, the strength needed of me was not there. I failed my wife Miss Cobden. I would not have that pain visited upon you. You said the past was naught but black magnetism. If I allowed, you would help me resist it. I have had enough of the darkness if you would help me know the sun.
COBDEN: Well, Edmund, I do hope you’re not going to launch into sonnets every time you wish to take me for dinner and a dance. I should find all the swooning quite tiresome.

Quite understandably, Reid is such a sombre and melancholy character but I wonder if you could tell us what it is like to work with Matthew Macfadyen during such scenes and give us a general sense of the atmosphere on set?

Leanne: He’s a brilliant actor and a lovely presence on set and it really is a pleasure to work with him. He also does a pristine scouse accent which cracks me up.

Damian: In the grand finale of series two, Our Betrayal, thanks to the odious Fred Best (David Dawson) having written a charming little piece for The Star with the headline, “Councillor Cobden and Detective Inspector Reid in Midnight Tryst”, Chief Inspector Abberline orders Reid to end the relationship. I suppose considering this and Reid’s later dark journey, it was perhaps inevitable but do you share my disappointment that there wasn’t more scenes that showcased the delightfully playful and flirty banter between the two of you in series three?

Leanne: I think it’s an interesting dynamic. Although I’m sure she still has feelings for Reid it’s perhaps more dramatically honest at this juncture to see how they are with each other as friends and allies when he has made it clear he can’t or won’t ever be able to be with her because of a world in which they both have very different paths to tread… I’m an old romantic but this is Ripper Street so I’m not too surprised they didn’t skip off into the sunset together, or not yet they haven’t anyway!

Damian: Reid writes Cobden a letter which we see her read presumably breaking off the relationship, can you remember if there was anything actually written on it – I’m just wondering if there was any information regarding the contents that might have been cut?

Leanne: I can’t remember what day it is most of the time so I couldn’t tell you to be honest! No content was cut as I recall. It was simply that he didn’t feel he could be with her.

Damian: The final moments of series two were stunning with Drake and the villainous Jedediah Shine (Joseph Mawle) slugging it out in the boxing ring with Reid screaming at Drake to finish him off. There is no dialogue between you and Matthew but the scene is just so powerful. Cobden simply stares at Reid as he shouts “No, Sergeant! You kill him!”. Was it a look of disappointment, disbelief or even disgust – what was going on inside Cobden’s head at that point?

Leanne: Despite what Reid had told Jane about who he was and the world he inhabited she refused to ever see him as a monster. In that moment I imagine she did see, and was devastated by it.

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Damian: It’s crazy to look back and consider this scene could very well have been the last we saw of Reid and friends. At what point did you find out that Ripper Street had been saved by Amazon much to the delight of the thousands of fans who petitioned for its return?

Leanne: I heard through my agent. I was genuinely chuffed to bits. Irrespective of my connection to the show or whether we’d see Jane again, I felt it was the wrong thing to take away from its very loyal fan base, the opportunity to see what would happen to a world they had really invested in. It’s a great drama, and what a testament to that that its fans saved it from the chopping block!

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Damian: I’d like to take a moment to discuss some of your other work. How  flattering was it to be cast as a Hammer Horror Monster?

Leanne: I’ve played a few dead women now… I must have that glow! It was really good fun. Hammer Horror is an iconic part of British cinema so it was a lovely thing to have the opportunity to do.

Damian: Given the intense make-up effects and FX prosthesis, were you not worried about your eyebrows?

Leanne: My eyebrows were OK surprisingly but I lost a layer of my epidermis I’m sure when the face came off after a long day.

Damian: Is it true that the original script was quite different from the film that was shot in that the idea involved the government acquiring the Eel Marsh House and converting it into a military hospital for the insane?

Leanne: I’m not sure about that. The draft I worked on was the one that made it on screen. It’s based on the second Susan Hill book but how that idea was developed for the film I don’t know.

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Damian: Were some scenes cut because I’m sure I saw images either from the trailers or stills that featured you, particularly a scene at the grave in the woods where we see you quite closer than the way the scene appeared in the film?

Leanne: I think I know the still you mean and I think that was a press shot not an actual scene from the film. That being said there are always things that are lost in the edit so maybe?

Damian: Do you believe in ghosts?

Leanne: I do actually, yes.

Damian: What can you tell us about your role in Bryan Cranston’s new film The Infiltrator and how you became involved?

Leanne: I’m not sure I’m allowed to say too much about the film but it was a pinch myself moment working with him as I’m a proper fan. And he was such a gent. Bloody brilliant. And it was a good old fashioned audition that got me the gig. I did a self tape on a matinee day doing Educating Rita so no one was more surprised than me when I got the gig!

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With Con O’Neil in ‘Educating Rita’

Damian: I want to talk more about Educating Rita because I’m a fan of Willy Russell and along with Blood Brothers and other plays, I think his writing still has some very powerful things to say about social mobility and class structure. I imagine from our previous interview that some of the themes and motifs of Rita have a special resonance with you personally?

Leanne: I could write a thesis on why it’s still a vital beautiful tragic essential piece of work. I was given that play at drama school to read when I was really struggling. I hadn’t done much acting and was on a scholarship to study drama when I didn’t have a clue who I was or what I was doing there. I sat in my college library and cried as it resonated with me on so many levels, and it does that with so many people for so many reasons. I loved it.

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Damian: What is Willy Russell like in person and why did he want you specifically to play Rita?

Leanne: Willy is amazing. He’s a brilliant fascinating man with so many stories and a hero of mine. I was thrilled to be the choice for the anniversary production with Con O’Neil who is an extraordinary actor but far be it from me to guess why. Maybe he’s a Ripper Street fan!

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The Woman in Green! At the ‘Ripper Street III’ premiere with MyAnna Buring and Charlene McKenna

COBDEN: Five acres, in which reside 6,000 individuals, and the rate at which they die here is four times that of the rest of this city. As you know, I plan to replace these shanties with modern and sanitary dwellings in which people might live out of choice, not obligation. However, this I cannot do unless the party, or parties, that own these lands permit it. Currently, all our surveyors encounter is violence from hired thugs. It is for this reason, ladies and gentlemen, that I invite you here today – to urge you, in print, to shame these opaque and hidden powers into good faith and negotiation. To ask them to stand forward and have a care for the future lives of their tenants. I thank you.
REID: Councillor. The investigations I have made for you. You wish to cause men shame, it’s better for you to have a name with which to do so – Obsidian Estates…
(Our Betrayal Part I – Richard Warlow)
SUSAN HART: Know this Duggan. Every moment I felt your foul breath on my face, your murderous fingers on my body, I thought of this. Dreamt of it. Your lawyers, your estates and holdings – all will now be made to work for me. Everything that you have built, I will make it mine…
(Our Betrayal Part II – Richard Warlow)

Damian: And so back to Ripper Street. What can you tell us about Obsidian in series three and Jane Cobden’s part in it?

Leanne: Long Susan is now the sole owner of Obsidian estates in series three and has used the money and prestige to create many opportunities to educate and employ vulnerable women in Whitechapel. She has sought Jane’s council and support to legitimise the enterprise.

Cobden with Mathilda Reid (Anna Burnett)

Cobden with Mathilda Reid (Anna Burnett)

Damian: I discussed the role of women in Ripper Street in my interview with MyAnna Buring. She said that characters like Susan and Cobden were integral characters in the show and that they challenged the perceptions of what women can do. However, I’m wondering how the completely incorruptible Cobden could justify going into business with Susan given her unforgivable actions in series three?

Leanne: There’s a lot of information that Jane isn’t privy to about Susan’s past and her actions. In her haste to help her do good she may be guilty of being naive about the situation. Fundamentally she respects Susan and the work she has undertaken to improve the lives of the impoverished of Whitechapel and may be guilty of having done harm in order to do good. As a woman in a man’s world I’m sure she sees Susan as a kindred spirit.

Damian: Seeds were planted for series three’s story arc as early as episode four in the second series (Dynamite and a Woman) with particular reference to Cobden’s mission to improve working class education, the renovation of St. Paul’s Wharfside and housing for the poor. Were you aware of Richard Warlow’s grand plan for Cobden when you first joined the show?

Leanne: I wasn’t no, but it’s been great to watch it all unfold and always nice to be asked back.

Damian: In discussing the character of Cobden and her battle to protect the poor, the reader may be forgiven for drawing contemporary political parallels with many of the issues highlighted in Ripper Street. With the recent Conservative victory at the general election still fresh in their minds, issues such as relocating the poor away from London to more “suitable and appropriate” areas or “social cleansing” as some might call it, in addition to what some perceive as an ideological war against welfare might resonate more than perhaps they should. I wonder who you consider to be the Jane Cobden’s of today?

Leanne: Well that’s a question! I’m a firm believer that whether it’s the front bench, back bench or park bench, you will always find inspiring women from all walks of life trying to make a difference in or out of the public eye… I’ve come across many and it’s always galvanising I have to say. Give it time and I might have a go myself!

Damian: Miss Best, my thanks. Time with you is, as ever, educative.

Leanne: Always lovely to talk to you.

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Ripper Street series three concludes tonight at 9pm on BBC1

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My first interview with Leanne Best can be found on the link below:

Leanne Best talks Ripper Street

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Leanne in rehearsals for ‘Educating Rita’

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RAZORS

What if someone had discovered the knives used by Jack the Ripper?
What if they went missing?
What if he came back into our world?

Damian Michael Barcroft finds out in an exclusive interview with the film’s co-writers and directors, Ian Powell and Karl Ward…

Razors0Damian: Razors is a British independent film and the first in a new horror franchise. The story concerns the discovery of the knives used by Jack the Ripper. Are you using the iconography associated with the Whitechapel murders of 1888 for cinematic and dramatic effect or is there also particular reference made to any of the suspects and their history?

Ian: We don’t really make reference to the suspects in the first film, but certainly the inclusion of the Ripper is not there purely for cinematic effect. The location where the story is set is pretty unique and has a resonance and relevance to the Ripper story. It isn’t in fact the Asylum where we originally intended to shoot, but a building in Islington that dates from the 1880’s, and was originally a veterinary hospital for horses. It is now used as a club, but its Victorian origins are all too obvious when you venture into the depths of the building, something we have enhanced by lighting the old brick stairways with flaming candles. As the central story is about a group of very genre aware screenwriters, using the location to inspire the writing of a ground breaking horror story, one of the leaping off points for the film is a questioning of the morality of writing a horror film, and especially one written around real events. The Ripper killed five real women in terrible ways and without wishing to give the game away it is the victims who take on a special significance in the film. The screenwriters are haunted by the ghost of a little girl from the Ripper’s time, she is trying to bring their attention to a terrible event from the past and part of the mystery for the audience is working out her identity.

Karl: For Razors the focus is more on the horror and fear of what the Ripper did to his victims. The story is orientated around the exploration of fear and the unearthing of a fictional history based on the facts in regards to the victims. So our attention is on the victim and not the Ripper himself. For the next films we are going to delve deeper into that world of Jack. We just didn’t want to tackle too much in one go.

Damian: What can you tell us about your Jack the Ripper mythos and how you have managed to transport the Victorian characters and events into a contemporary setting for the film?

Ian: In Razors a troubled young screenwriter, Ruth Walker, is one of six screenwriters taken to a unique Victorian location, a place with a history, by their enigmatic tutor Prof. Richard Wise. All must pitch the ultimate horror movie and Wise will chose one story that they will then develop together using the building for inspiration. But Ruth has the ultimate pitch in that she believes a box that she has inherited contains the knives used by Jack the Ripper, and she has been told never to open it. (Quite how she has obtained the box is explained later in the film). No one of course believes her but after the pitches, and as the competition between them hots up, the knives go missing and it seems that the spirit of the Ripper exists behind the walls of the building and is being slowly reborn. The screenwriters have been drawn to writing horror by nightmares they have had since childhood and a shared sense of doom.

At the risk of giving away too much of the plot, (some plot spoilers ahead) the screenwriters are haunted by the ghost of a little Victorian girl who seems to be drawing them towards a long hidden secret, and the film hints at a possible sixth, undiscovered Ripper murder that happened in a chamber hidden behind the walls. The Police interrupted it and although the Ripper escaped, managed to take his knives but not before the little girl hid one of them within the walls and trapping the spirit of the Ripper there. Thus to stop the Ripper once and for all, and to prevent his escape into the wider world, Ruth must find the missing knife and use it to destroy him. In doing so the screenwriters will discover the identity of the little girl and their own particular relevance to the Ripper’s story, which is the film’s big final twist.

Thus in Razors we set up a concept that can be developed further in later films. The knives are a kind of seal on the Ripper’s tomb and wherever they are now taken, the avenging spirit of the Ripper will follow.

Karl: Our Jack the Ripper could be anyone. He could be your brother or best friend. As we all know there are many theories about who Jack was but for us the importance was what he stood for. He is a symbol of fear that everyone all over the world can identify with. We do drag other characters contemporary to Jack’s time into the film (we get a cheeky glimpse of Abberline amongst others), but the idea is to mirror the events of that time and not to reproduce it. Fear of the unknown is the ultimate duality between the mythos of that time and of our society now. Imagine Jack as an ideology for terror… A terror threat. Something everyone fears yet cannot avoid. A hellish image of pain and suffering.

razor4Damian: We obviously don’t want to reveal too much but can we talk about Andrew Shire who plays Jack the Ripper and how you approached the writing and directing of such an enigmatic character?

Ian: I think we very consciously went for a different look for the Ripper and wanted to avoid the top hat and opera cloak approach. I took the Ripper tour and was struck by the idea that he could have been a workman from a slaughterhouse, who could have got blood on his clothes and entered a public house in the early hours of the morning without arousing undue attention. Karl has come up with a really cool story idea for the identity of the Ripper which we will explore in one of the sequels; it is a plausible and intriguing concept but not one that pretends to be based on historical fact or the existing list of suspects. As to Andrew, he is an extremely powerful actor who I had used in my previous film, Seeing Heaven. He looks very enigmatic and really gives it his all. He is a sinister presence in this film, and subsequent films will need to build more on his character, but he brings a pretty deranged approach to playing the Ripper which is a nice contrast to the usual black eyed enigmatic figure of evil in From Hell.

Karl: Andrew and myself worked a lot on making sure the approach to such an iconic character was fresh. We wanted the character to be familiar but certainly not the typical Jack the Ripper you see in comics or drawings scattered all over the place. I tried to keep Andrew as distanced from the other actors on set as possible; I wanted to alienate him as an actor from the others. As a character he doesn’t say much in the film so it was important to work on physicality and to keep Andrew focused on his motivation which I will not reveal. As you say, that would give too much away. The dialogue between Andrew and I on set was rather unsettling. We got a few funny looks from the rest of the cast and crew as they heard little glimpses of what I whispered to him. Thankfully Andrew was excited by this approach and went along with it. The result I feel is very animalistic and daring.

Damian: Were you tempted to watch the classic screen representations of Jack the Ripper such as Murder by Decree or the Michael Caine miniseries for example?

Ian: I have seen both, the Michael Caine series when it originally aired and Murder by Decree when it was shown back in the late 70’s or early 80’s on TV. So Murder by Decree is a strong memory from my youth. I think it is a superb film. I think I also dimly remember the Z cars detectives take on the Ripper case programme that started off the Royal theory thread. I would have liked to have referred more to particular elements of the Ripper murders and to have woven them more into our present day story. These elements were present in the original shooting script (e.g. the writing chalked on the wall that is wiped off by the chief of Police) but this evolved a little in shooting and now this first Razor’s film concentrates more fully around the story of the central character Ruth who has the knives and her five fellow script writers. To be honest a whole host of influences have gone into the film, including the idea of the little girl from Hands of the Ripper although in this film she is not the Ripper’s daughter, and we have used her character to design a new twist. There is also a nod with her to Mario Bava’s Kill Baby Kill and the idea of little Ghost girl’s in Peter Straub’s work…especially the Mia Farrow film Full Circle. There are also references to The Stone Tape with the building keeping an essence of past events.

Karl: I had seen clips when I was younger… I love Michael Caine. Anyway, for me the film is more of a psychological struggle of upbringing and fear so I researched a lot into real serial killers such as Ed Gein, Charles Manson and others. It’s always fun to see interpretations of a character through other films yet to create something a little fresher I felt that finding real case studies was more useful. I tend to get more influenced by music, sound and objects than anything else. For me that’s always a good starting point. To name a couple of tracks Justice Stress and the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis score for The Road.

razor1Damian: Again, avoiding spoilers, can you tell me more about Professor Richard Wise?

Ian: Professor Wise is a professor of screenwriting who takes five of his most gifted students to the old Victorian location at the centre of the film, for a kind of horror boot camp, to encourage them to explore their fears and write the ultimate horror story. But of course he may also have an ulterior motive. Wise believes in “bad places” that have existed throughout history and can exert an influence on the present.

Probably the biggest influence on Razors is the original Robert Wise film of The Haunting. Thus Professor Wise is a bit of a homage to the Richard Johnson character in that film. He is very much in the tradition of learned authority figures who takes a group of characters to a historically significant place with somewhat murky motives. He is a scholar and as the film progresses we might begin to wonder quite what it is he knows about the Ripper murders and the way that the five screenwriters, despite being modern characters, might fit in to them. The big twist of the film is that they are more intimately involved than you might think. Thomas Thoroe plays Wise with a nice enigmatic and icy edge. He is affable but also a little bit scary.

Karl: A sick, macabre, Faustian mess.

Damian: The aforementioned plot element featuring the idea of a group of writers competing to write the ultimate horror story reminds me of that dark and stormy night in 1816 when a group of friends including Shelley, Byron and Polidori challenged each other to a similar endeavour which resulted in the creation of Frankenstein. I was wondering if this was a deliberate homage?

Ian: That was a wonderful story, but I suppose here we have taken a bit more of a Scream approach as the characters are young screenwriters. The stories that the screenwriters pitch to each other, tell us a lot about their characters. So Zack the American pitches a Hostel type bloodbath, James the English geeky guy, something more intellectual, Sadie and Jane, an Elizabeth Bathory type vampire story that they have worked on together. I guess the similarity with the gothic story is that Ruth (like Mary Shelley) has a complicated Freudian back story that influences what she writes, a history of violence at the hands of her own father etc.

Karl: I wish I could say it was. Regardless, I love the comparison. Shelley’s gothic novel is a massive influence on me as a writer. Thank you.

Stills from the film 'Razors'Damian: Your production company, Magic Mask Pictures, specialises in visually striking and high concept fantasy/horror films, given that Razors has the aforementioned present-day setting, to what extend does the meticulously crafted lighting shot by the award-winning cinematographer, Alessio Valori, attempt to evoke Jack the Ripper’s Victorian East End of London?

Ian: In Seeing Heaven my last film, Alessio went for a very intense use of primary colours as a homage to the great Italian fantasy director Mario Bava. In this film the use of colour is more restrained but Alessio wanted to stick to a discipline of largely lighting the scenes with candles and the characters’ torches, augmented with relatively few film lights and neons. The textures of the walls and other elements of the junk filled building give it a special ambience and we didn’t have to do much to create an oppressive atmosphere. Ironically, the actual location we used is full of secret rooms filled with collections of objects and in fact, it also houses a scrap metal yard which the police have used to destroy knives and other weapons, thus the plotline around the knives has a small echo in the building’s real history. I would also mention that we were very lucky to have David Blight designing our costumes and he has worked on a large number of TV costume productions. So in the few instances when we skip back to Victorian times, the costumes look authentic.

Karl: We used a lot of natural light from candles in the film. This meant we could move around the locations quickly and get more shooting material logistically, but it also mirrored the lighting states that would have been seen at the time. Alessio is an incredibly passionate cinematographer and the proof of his expertise is in the shots themselves. For the time we shot it in and the budget, Alessio has really produced imagery that surpasses what was expected. When Ian and I started to look through what we had captured we couldn’t wait to hit the editing suite.

Damian: You’re a great admirer of the directors Dario Argento and George A. Romero, do you think the work of these two icons of the horror genre have influenced your films or the visual style of Razors?

Ian: I love the politics and social themes of Romero’s movies and I am a big fan of the ingenuity of Argento’s early movies. However I am a bigger fan of Mario Bava, with his ability to create a sense of pure dream states in his films and to use colour to signify passion and emotion. We are currently working in the edit in the dream montages, and if we can get the audience to lose themselves within them, we will have achieved something. I am also a big fan of practical effects and atmosphere rather than CGI and Alessio Valori our cinematographer is very skilled in this regard. So even before colour grading, the film has a distinctive look that is all achieved in the camera and through skilful lighting.

Damian: You’ve recently completed principal photography and are currently in post-production, when can we expect Razors to be released?

Karl: This year. It’s a lengthy process but we are working closely with editor Euan Donaldson to create a film that is exciting for an audience to watch. The film is shaping and moving in ways we never anticipated before. It’s scary and exciting, but ultimately cannot be rushed. There are moments when things slot into place and I feel genuinely anxious about what is going to happen in a scene I’ve seen numerous times. I hope that the auditorium will be inquisitive and a bundle of nerves. But to be honest, I am not sure if I could sit in there with them!

Ian: I would also just like to add that the film has another East End connection in that we worked closely with students from the SAE institute in Haggerston, who got their first feature film credit, working with us on the film. We are hopping when the film has finished that it will have an East End cinema premiere.

Damian: As you’ve already mentioned, Razors is only the first chapter in an ongoing series of films. What is your overall vision for the franchise?

Ian: We just want to create and intelligent and different horror franchise that goes beyond the usual teenagers in peril formula. The Ripper’s knives will get stolen in one of the sequels by an unscrupulous art dealer and will turn up in America, where of course it is thought by some that the Ripper actually escaped to after the five core murders, with additional murders happening there. We also plan a slightly post-modern detour in one of the sequels, with the writer of the original film, haunted by the ghosts of the Ripper victims, who implore him to find out the Ripper’s true identity, as they never actually saw his face. (As a Shoreditch resident when I walk around Brick Lane I am very conscious of the actual locations of the murders).

Karl: We will delve deeper into the mythos and explore darker corners of its world. We have a few tricks up our sleeve both period and surrealist – you’ll just have to wait and see!

Damian: Ian and Karl, thank you very much indeed.

~

Visit the official Razors website: http://www.razorsthemovie.com/
Thanks to Sue Foll for her photography.
www.suefoll.co.uk
“Razors” content and images are copyright of Magic Mask Pictures

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.

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.

croc2

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

HOUSE OF GHOSTS

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

Inspired by the Inspector Morse novels of Colin Dexter

~

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.

~

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/

~

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/