Tag Archives: Alma Cullen

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with writer Russell Lewis on ARCADIA


Arcadia: A mountainous district in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. In poetic fantasy it represents a pastoral paradise and in Greek mythology it is the home of Pan.

– Oxford English Dictionary


Russell Lewis on ARCADIA

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Arthur Octavius Prickard


We continue our journey discussing the last series of ENDEAVOUR as well as previewing tonight’s film with writer/executive producer – Russell Lewis.


DAMIAN: ARCADIA was notable for many things of course, but perhaps some of the most significant aspects were the departure of Detective Sergeant Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) and the introduction of Woman Police Constable Shirley Trewlove (Dakota Blue Richards). Were these two events connected?

RUSS:  Yes and no.  I had originally introduced Trewlove in FILM 1: RIDE in a much bigger way – she found the first body, which was not in the Ghost Train…  but that’s another story. However, with all else that was crammed into FILM 1, it was suggested that her introduction was dropped back to FILM 2.  So, it became a bit of an Emma Peel/Tara King handover.  One out, one in.

I was very sorry to lose Jack – but you play the hand you’re dealt.

DAMIAN: I’ve often bemoaned the fact that ENDEAVOUR has so many rich supporting characters but so little screen time to share with all of them. Indeed, characters such as Bright and Dorothea for example, often have their scenes trimmed or cut altogether. With this in mind, why add another regular cast member?

RUSS:  Well, Jack’s departure meant we were a Sergeant down in CID – and it seemed to be a good opportunity for Strange to start his climb up the greasy pole.  You lose Strange from uniform, and someone has to step in.  Thus, Trewlove.

DAMIAN: Has there ever been any pressure from either ITV or Mammoth Screen to make ENDEAVOUR more diverse in terms of creating characters or casting?

RUSS:  The network, like all broadcasters, quite rightly has a responsibility to make sure that life onscreen reflects and represents life off-screen – but they’ve never been prescriptive. 1967 Oxford is a very different place to 2017 Oxford – so we need to be true to that to a certain degree. To have replaced Strange in uniform with another bloke would have been a bit swapping like for like, and I thought it would be more interesting to see a young woman in the boysie atmosphere of Cowley nick.

I believe she’s brought a welcome new dynamic to the set-up.  Dakota’s just terrific, and it’s been wonderful to watch her become an integral part of the team.  But, in answer to your question, neither the network nor Mammoth asked me to add a woman to the line-up of Police characters.  Rather I felt it was an oversight on my part.   Even Carry on Constable depicted women in the Police Force – then it was a Force, now it’s a Service.  And if you go back even further you’ve got Joyce Grenfell’s immortal Ruby Gates in the St.Trinian’s series.

So, in part, Trewlove’s creation owes something to those characters.  I just wondered what might happen if we played it straight, rather than for laughs.  Shirley Eaton was the epitome of that kind of cool, capable and resourceful character across a multitude of British pictures from the period.  Ms.Eaton’s character in Carry on Nurse for example.

I know it’s the second time I’ve mentioned the series, and The Carry Ons may seem a curious well upon which to draw for a drama, but they’re a fascinating archive of little period details and social history.  Not the more rompy, period costume numbers, particularly, although they’re enormous fun — but certainly the first seven or so, up to Cabby.  And then the odd one here or there that looked at some aspect of British life or another.

Seriously.  If anyone wants to understand the British…  start with The Carry Ons.  All the oddities and preoccupations of our long island race are contained therein.  Class.  Sex.  The lavatory.

So, that’s sort of where Trewlove came from.  Not an Ice Queen – just nobody’s fool.  Smart as a whip, and as brave as you like.  I guess the other template, to a degree, is Betjeman’s Myfanwy.  ‘Ringleader, tomboy, and chum to the weak.’  And, of course, a bit of Sue Lloyd’s “Jean” from The Ipcress File.

DAMIAN: Protesters outside Richardson’s supermarket shout to end the illegal regime and freedom for Rhodesia reminding me that we’ve touched ever so slightly on politics before in our discussion of TROVE when I asked if you infuse any of the characters with your own personal politics and you replied “I suppose all the characters, stories, etc., are infused to some degree”. I wonder if political events from last year such as Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump might make for a more intense “infusion” in the future?

RUSS:  Trump might be a stretch.  The audience might not believe such a character could exist in any credible world.  Besides, Tim Burton and Danny DeVito got there first with Batman Returns.  ’68 (if it happens) with Paris and Prague is already of interest, and probably goes some way towards answering your other point.

DAMIAN: If such recent events suggest voters on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly leaning more to the right of politics, doesn’t it make for an interesting dichotomy that film and television makers who, it could be argued, are supposed to represent and reflect their audiences are in most cases vocally to the left?

RUSS: No dichotomy at all for a politically correct, virtue-signalling, snowflake, Leftard luvvie, and fully paid up member of the metropolitan liberal elite such as myself.

The Right has more than enough media outlets to make the case for its interests.  If it falls to us, in the interest of balance, to do our bit as a loyal opposition, so be it.  But Right/Left is almost too simple a paradigm, and plays into the hands of those who seek to divide and rule.  Typically, across the last few decades, it’s been the Right that’s held sway and provided the pricks to kick against, but you’ll note we didn’t roll up our tents in ’97.  The divide is, as always, between justice and injustice; the powerful and the powerless.

At such a time, with extremism of every stripe on the march, it’s important to hold the line. To bear witness.  To question.  To challenge.  To give a voice to the voiceless, the ignored, the marginalised.  To stand with those who daily, in so many ways, both great and small, live the case for compassion and humanity.  If the best way we can do that is through a Wallace Beery wrestling picture, then, I promise you, it’ll be the best damn Wallace Beery wrestling picture you ever saw.

Just remember.  Kelvin MacKenzie wrote ‘The Truth’.  Jimmy McGovern wrote ‘Hillsborough’.

DAMIAN: Would it be fair to say that Detective Constable Morse is more liberal and Detective Inspector Morse more conservative or is this simply a reflection of the two periods in which they appeared?

RUSS:  I’m not sure about appeared.  That Endeavour’s backdrop is the middle through late 60s is more likely to be germane.  The Detective Chief Inspector never struck me as particularly conservative.

DAMIAN: And that’s all from Question Time this week, we now continue with our usual programming. In my research I found that there was a John Richardson who was an English Quaker minister and autobiographer. Did he have anything to do with the naming of the supermarket?

RUSS:  Would that we’d been so canny.  They ended up as Richardson because it was the nearest we could clear to Robertson (which was their original name – but wouldn’t clear because of danger of confusion with the Jam makers).  ‘So, here’s to you, Mrs.Robertson…’  &c. The story started out – in part – as a salute to Mike Nicholls and The Graduate.  And some of that survived.

DAMIAN: We spoke last week of your mischievous nods to future films and in ARCADIA we see packs of Frosties and adverts for cat food in the supermarket! Did you get permission to use Kellogg’s brands but not the Brekkies cat food or is there some hidden meaning behind the name Brecco?

RUSS:  I assume permission must have been forthcoming on the former, but not the latter.  Art and Design were responsible for stocking the shelves of Richardsons – so some mischief may well have been theirs.

DAMIAN: The first series was set in 1965, the second was 1966 so I’m wondering why both the third and fourth are set in 1967 – was it a very good year?

RUSS:  We quite simply didn’t get through all the ’67 stories.  More practically, I’m anxious not to run out of sky before we reach the end of the decade, which has always felt to me like the natural point to bring our part of the story to a close.  Also – the happy result of a two volume ’67 means that, should we return with ’68, then it will broadcast exactly 50 years after it’s set. And there’s something pleasing about half a century between then and now.

DAMIAN: Early in ARCADIA, the Thursday family share a box of chocolates in front of the television. Win, Joan and Sam can all be seen chewing with a guilty look on their faces as Fred asks who had the Savoy Truffle. Well, who was the culprit?

RUSS:  You know my methods, Barcroft.  Apply them!

DAMIAN: Yes Sir. In fact, it was a “Good News” box of chocolates! We’ve discussed your fondness for Horror, Western and Film Noir many times in our previous interviews but I think we’re yet to address your obsession with The Beatles (we’ll do Tony Hancock another time). Indeed, from the very beginning, hasn’t ENDEAVOUR been awash with references to The Fab Four?

RUSS:  The 60s are unimaginable without them.  I don’t know if it’s an obsession, but their output year by year has been very helpful in getting one’s head into the right place.  ’68’s ‘The Beatles’ a.k.a. the ‘White Album’ has already got me thinking about the way forward.  The clue lies in the liner notes, such as they are.

As for The Lad Himself – last week’s film originally had a slew of nods, but they bit the bullet. I’m sure they’ll come again.

DAMIAN: Naturally, there a lots more references as usual ranging from the aforementioned The Graduate, Raymond Chandler and John Bunyan (House Beautiful also a nod to LEWIS) but I was concerned by Max’s joke “the last of the red hot livers” a play on words of the Neil Simon play which didn’t appear until two years later. Shouldn’t there be a rule that characters don’t make references to cultural events that haven’t occurred yet?

RUSS:  Max was invoking Sophie Tucker – widely known as ‘The last of the red hot mamas’ – swapping out ‘mamas’ for ‘livers’ to reflect the state of deceased’s cirrhotic organ.  The joke, such as it is, works for a modern audience for its being – unintentionally on Max’s part – but a letter away from Mr.Simon’s play.  That said, as a phrase, ‘the last of the red hot… <insert your choice here>’ certainly had some currency prior to the play.

DAMIAN: ARCADIA featured one of the most thrillingly intense sequences of any ENDEAVOUR film thus far. Just before they find Verity and the bomb, Endeavour asks Jakes, “This time next month you’ll be riding the range – any regrets?” to which he replies “Life’s too short”. In comparison to both INSPECTOR MORSE and LEWIS, ENDEAVOUR puts our friends in peril on a much more regular basis and given that you’ve toyed with our nerves regarding Thursday’s possible demise in NEVERLAND and again if we count CODA, isn’t there a danger of you becoming the writer who cried wolf?

RUSS:  My impulse always inclines towards the fatal.  Damien Timmer is far more charitable. But one of these days the undertaker will be sent for…

We were all very fond of Little Pete (and even fonder of Jack) and thought it would be nice for the character if we gave him a happy exit – after all his childhood unhappiness.

DAMIAN: There must have been lots of night shoots on location for this film. I can think of lots of advantages and disadvantages for this but do they generally prove easier or more problematic for cast and crew?

RUSS:  Technically, it’s not problematic, but it does put a lot of pressure on the circadian rhythms of cast & crew.  Health & Safety and good working practices means that a certain amount of hours have to elapse between shifts, and so, if you’ve got a night shoot, or a couple of nights, then you can only slowly get the ship back on an even keel,  You claw back a couple of hours a day – or schedule them close to a natural break – a full day off.

DAMIAN: I presume you did your research and timed yourself running to see how long it would take to get to the phone box on Merton Street and the second rendezvous on New College Lane?

RUSS:  Naturally.  I also had a large sum of money in a briefcase as a handicap.  Nothing if not a Method writer.   And I always commit identical murders before sitting down to write each series. Just to make sure I get the details right.

DAMIAN: Marion Brooke (AMNOX) from MASONIC MYSTERIES makes an appearance in this film but wouldn’t it be even better if Endeavour bumped into Hugo De Vries one day?

RUSS: Each thing in its season.  I shouldn’t be surprised to see him sooner or later.

DAMIAN: You’ve written some cracking lines for Thursday over the years but his comments after visiting the hippy commune are priceless…

THURSDAY: Consider the lilies of the field? Come that old madam with me, and he’ll be considering my boot up his arse.

…ARCADIA sees Thursday becoming increasingly impatient, perhaps even intolerant, culminating in the dramatic showdown of CODA. Does his behaviour in series three mark a permanent shift in the dynamics of the relationship between Thursday and Endeavour?

RUSS:  I think we’ve always seen it as something organic.  We didn’t want it to become set in aspic, or predictably cosy, but rather something that evolves naturally out of events.  I think you’re already getting some insight onto their developing relationship in Series IV.

DAMIAN: It seems such a pity for Jakes to have left Oxford just as Endeavour and the audience were getting to know him. If Jack Laskey hadn’t signed on to star in the Canadian spy thriller X COMPANY, would we have had to wait much longer for the warmer Jakes?

RUSS:  No.  I don’t think so.  Like Bright’s relationship with Endeavour – they’ve been through a lot together, and if that didn’t change how they related to one another then I think it would be a bit repetitive to watch, and a bit unrealistic in terms of human behaviour.

DAMIAN: At the end of the scene in which Jakes helps Endeavour move into his new flat, we hear Ebben, Ne andro lontana from the opera La Wally by Alfredo Catalani, is this because, like Jakes, Wally decides to leave her home forever?

RUSS:  Wasn’t one of mine.  A wheeze of Mr.Pheloung’s.

DAMIAN: Other than this film, NEVERLAND was arguably the most revealing in terms of our understanding of Jakes’ character and backstory. This combined with his first name might suggest Peter Pan and Pan was the god of shepherds and flocks in Greek mythology which ties in with Jakes moving to Wyoming with his fiancee to work on her father’s cattle business. Add ARCADIA into the mix and we’re back to Greek mythology and a pastoral paradise – correct?

RUSS:  Again – yes and no.  ET IN ARCADIA EGO.  The notion that even in paradise Death stalks the land.  If memory serves, we originally wanted the Poussin, a.k.a., ‘Les bergers d’Arcadie’ to be the picture Endeavour saw at Bixby’s do in RIDE, but we couldn’t get clearance – copyright on images belonging to The Louvre, and they wouldn’t let us use it.  Perhaps because we were suggesting it was a forgery.  I can see how that might worry them, but to anything more sentient than a bowl of custard it’s sort of obvious that we’re in the business of pretend.  The Rijksmuseum was a lot more amenable.  But it’s mildly frustrating – and sometimes makes layering the puzzle a lot harder than one would like.  Things one would presume to be public domain that turn out not to be.

DAMIAN: Well, it was a lovely send-off at the Lamb and Flag with most of the gang together one last time but Jakes sees Endeavour pass the window outside. We know Endeavour is forever on the outside looking in, but why didn’t he go in for a pint?

RUSS:  A morbid dislike of ‘good-byes’ – formal and informal.  In his way, he’d become surprisingly fond of Jakes.

DAMIAN: And it was beautiful of Endeavour to give Jakes those premium bonds for his kid but I don’t think many in the audience would have fully appreciated how generous this actually was given the debt Endeavour is in (partly due to his late father’s gambling problems) which isn’t explored until CODA and doesn’t really come across at this point. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to convey this context to the audience sooner?

RUSS:  We’d been trying to crowbar in his paying off his father’s gambling debts since TROVE – but hadn’t been able to find space for it.  Revealing it in CODA serves the plot, but also gives insight into the essentially private and stoic nature of Endeavour’s character.  It’s something he hasn’t shared with anyone else.

Perversely, as a member of an audience when watching stuff, I find it quite enjoyable to have to retro-fit facts to what has gone before.  It gives a piece a bit more life in the mind of the viewer. I don’t think much would have been gained by knowing Endeavour’s straitened financial circs ahead of the Premium Bonds.  It would have made him even more of a martyr – something Shaun Evans is always keen to avoid.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.

DAMIAN: Yes, I also teach my Grandmother to suck eggs in my spare time. Anyway, in addition to the scenes with Jakes, there were some lovely moments with Endeavour and Joan and I particularly liked her comments following their discussion of Jakes (who she briefly dated in series one) and his fiancee Hope…

JOAN: Out of all the people, who’d have thought? Love, I suppose. Don’t know until you meet the right one.

…and it’s beautiful to see that she can’t stop smiling around Endeavour throughout the entire scene. There was a lovely chemistry between the two from the very beginning but at what point did you decide that they’d fall for each other?

RUSS:  From the moment I had her open the door to him for the first time.

DAMIAN: Wouldn’t Thursday be pleased if his daughter ended up with a gentleman like Endeavour?

RUSS:  Would you?  He’s quite a difficult, haunted…  damaged character, isn’t he?  Brilliant detective, but emotionally…  something of a train wreck.  That early, formative loss.  See how deep the bullet lies.  They’ve been circling one another for two and half years.  Endeavour’s been denying his feelings – compartmentalising – for all that time.  Both of them, really.  Joan’s been intrigued by him from the off.   He’s not like anyone she’s met before.  Kind, and respectful, and lost, and brilliant, and emotionally guarded.  Dysfunctional in his way.  Jakes grabbed her arse.  Endeavour gave her his coat, and walked her home.

Sara Vickers is a wonderful actor, and a delight to write for.  She just got it right.  Nailed it every time.  Joan’s bravery, and intelligence, and utter decency.  All of it so beautifully understated. Her scenes will always have a very special place in my heart.

DAMIAN: Another delightful scene was Bright’s introduction to Trewlove who seems rather taken by her (“My door is always… well, if not actually open then not infrequently ajar”) – smirks all round from Endeavour, Thursday and Jakes. Does this scene together with his comments to Mrs. Robinson regarding her missing daughter (“Believe me, I do apprehend something of your anxiety”) and later revelations in PREY suggest he sees her as something of a daughter figure?

RUSS:  Anton has an almost preternatural grasp of what underpins much of Bright’s dialogue. There are things that he instinctively chivvies out – reading, quite literally, between the lines.  To watch him do his thing…  Never less than astonishing.  Riggers (Sean Rigby) wrote that being in a three-hander with Anton and Roger was like being at a masterclass.  They do create rather wonderful music together.

There have been some Bright things we were unable to include in SERIES 3 & 4…  As has proved with many of my deeper designs, perhaps the third knock will open the door.

DAMIAN: Green Shield Stamps and toys at the bottom of cereal packets, ARCADIA was affectionately nostalgic wasn’t it?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Being dragged around the local supermarket – with interminable stops for gossiping – is an overriding childhood memory.

DAMIAN: And was that an Eric Morecambe “Wha-Hey!” I heard when Sam finds the coveted Thunderbird 2?

RUSS:  You’d have to ask Jack Bannon.

DAMIAN: Now then, not wishing to make a song and dance about it, but you were rather miserly in your preview of last week’s film if I may be so bold. So, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to compensate for that now and shower us with fascinating titbits about tonight’s film…

RUSS:  Well – since you mentioned The Beatles earlier…  Endeavour goes pop.  It’s a collision between two worlds – that of Endeavour’s generation and that of his parents.  What’s acceptable, and what’s not.  The Permissive Society – so called.  What would the neighbours say?  Vague shades of another INSPECTOR MORSE story – I’ll leave it to you to work out which. But it’s quite an oblique brushing of the shoulders – thematically.  Directed by Michael Lennox – who’s done something very special with it.  Rather not go into too many details.

But I had a lot of fun with Matt Slater putting together the songs for it.  The first is sung by Sharlette – who’s got a gorgeous voice, and is quite a find; and the other features the actors who make up The Wildwood.  We recorded it at RAK Studios (founded by Mickie Most in 1976) one Sunday in early-ish summer – and that was a high point.  Shaun came down.  And the Great Ziegler.  Enormous fun.

In retrospect, I wish we’d done ALL our ‘period’ non-classical music this way.  Watch this space. Or listen to it, more like.  Perhaps one day – when we get to the end — we’ll go back and retrofit the entire back catalogue.  Though that might mean we’d have to retitle ‘SWAY’.

DAMIAN: Last week you chose DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION and GREEKS BEARING GIFTS as your first two “Desert Island Dexters”. Can you tell us about your next two choices please?

RUSS:  This is far harder than it looks.  It was always a terrific show from first to last, but I think it’s generally agreed that it hit a real purple patch between S4 through S6, from which I could pick more or less any film.  However…  THE INFERNAL SERPENT- a great, dark, coil of a story by Alma Cullen.  Fabulous misdirection.  The central guest performances were just terrific – Cheryl Campbell, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, and Geoffrey Palmer.  And John Madden weaving his magic again.  As you know, we borrowed (pinched!) Geoffrey Palmer’s character from this for TROVE.  I hope Alma didn’t mind what we did with him.

And the first of a probably a few by the great Julian Mitchell.  (I can see I’m not going to get to cover all my faves.)  CHERUBIM & SERAPHIM features my dear friend Charlie Caine as the DJ. We’ve known one another since we were six — so I’m having that.  And, of course, it’s the story in which we meet Gwen and Joyce.  Anything that gives us a window on Morse’s past is always a favourite.  And this is one of those stories.  Unconventional in its way.  It could have been quite an easy misfire, Morse amidst the Rave scene, but Julian, as ever, proved a master of his materials and handled it with great insight and sensitivity.  Youth and age.  A story laden with melancholy and regret.



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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 ~


HOUSEOFGHOSTS8House of Ghosts continues its tour throughout April and May at the following venues:
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