AGATHA RAISIN

Agatha Raisin is back for a full se­ries fea­tur­ing the ex­ploits of the glam am­a­teur de­tec­tive. Crime Scene meets Ash­ley Jensen and ven­tures into the colour­ful, cosy world of Cotswolds-based in­trigue.

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By SARAH DOBBS

Ash­ley Jensen on her colour­ful crime-fighter in the Cotswolds.

W hen Crime Scene catches up with her, she’s com­fort­ably en­sconced in a cen­tral Lon­don ho­tel room, no bro­ken win­dows in sight. In her ev­ery­day life, Jensen’s not par­tic­u­larly keen on killer heels. But for play­ing am­a­teur sleuth Agatha Raisin, they’re es­sen­tial – even char­ac­ter-defin­ing. “It’s a whole sil­hou­ette,” Jensen ex­plains. “We cre­ated that stamp of iden­tity that a lot of tele­vi­sion de­tec­tives have. It was a big deal find­ing the look of her. Once I had the cos­tume on, I was like, ‘yes, I know who I am now’.”

That might be more than Raisin her­self does. As you’ll know if you caught the 2014 pilot, Agatha Raisin And The Quiche Of Death, the epony­mous in­ves­ti­ga­tor is a fish out of wa­ter in the fic­tional Cotswolds vil­lage of Cars­ley. A former high-pow­ered Lon­don PR, she’s re­tired to the coun­try for a bit of peace and quiet. But be­tween the vil­lage’s un­ex­pect­edly high crime rate and an in­tense on-off ro­mance with her next-door neigh­bour, Raisin finds that ru­ral living isn’t as quiet as she ex­pected. The show’s eight hour-long episodes will see her chas­ing down crim­i­nals and in­ves­ti­gat­ing murders. And though her colour­ful wardrobe – all bright blaz­ers, im­prac­ti­cal shoes and state­ment lip­sticks – looked nor­mal enough when she was work­ing with me­dia types, in Cars­ley it marks her as an out­sider even be­fore she starts try­ing to do the po­lice’s job for them.

It also sets her apart from the ranks of es­tab­lished TV de­tec­tives. You def­i­nitely wouldn’t mis­take Raisin for knitwearlov­ing Sarah Lund, or catch her sport­ing any­thing re­sem­bling Columbo’s scruffy rain­coat. And you shouldn’t mis­take Agatha Raisin for a se­ri­ous crime drama, ei­ther. Raisin’s cre­ator, au­thor M.C. Beaton, has ex­pressed dis­dain for the term in the past, but – whis­per it – we’re def­i­nitely in ‘cosy crime’ ter­ri­tory here.

“It is a fam­ily show that every­body can en­joy,” en­thuses Jensen’s co-star Mathew Horne. He plays Roy Sil­ver, a former col­league of Raisin’s who won’t let her leave him be­hind in Lon­don.

“Ini­tially, Roy doesn’t like the idea of Agatha mov­ing out to the coun­try,” Horne says. “He doesn’t un­der­stand it. He’s very much an ur­ban­ite. But as the se­ries pro­gresses and she be­comes more em­broiled in the murders in Cars­ley, he quite likes the drama. He likes be­ing in­volved in try­ing to solve th­ese murders with her. He doesn’t take it too se­ri­ously; he just likes the drama of it, in quite a campy way.”

That pretty much sums up the tone of the show as a whole: campy, dra­matic, and not en­tirely se­ri­ous. Filmed in the pic­turesque vil­lage of Bid­de­stone in

“I can walk on any ter­rain in stiletto heels now,” laughs Ash­ley Jensen. “Grass, cob­bles, gravel… I’ve scaled walls! I’ve opened doors with my heels. I’ve smashed win­dows with my heels.”

Wilt­shire, Agatha Raisin has all the choco­late box charm of Mid­somer Murders, though its em­pha­sis falls even more heav­ily on the ‘cosy’ half of ‘cosy crime’. Each episode is a stand­alone who­dunit, adapted from one of Beaton’s nov­els or short sto­ries, which sees Raisin struggling to find her place. She’s try­ing to put down roots in an un­fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment, but her ef­forts to fit in of­ten end badly (in hi­lar­i­ous ways).

“It’s quite a fine line to tread,” Jensen ac­knowl­edges. “What I think Sky is do­ing at the mo­ment is tak­ing a leaf out of the Amer­i­cans’ book. This is a thing I think Amer­ica does very well; Ugly Betty did it, and Des­per­ate Housewives, and Friends, [ they’re come­dies where] the emo­tions are just as real as they are in any drama. In this pro­gramme, we’re deal­ing with mur­der, and peo­ple are go­ing through grief, and Agatha’s re­la­tion­ship sit­u­a­tion is all over the place, and that’s all very heart­felt. We try to fluc­tu­ate be­tween drama and comedy in the same pro­gramme.”

Ah, the ‘re­la­tion­ship sit­u­a­tion’. While many TV de­tec­tives are ter­mi­nally sin­gle, too mar­ried to their jobs to look for ro­mance else­where, that’s def­i­nitely not the case with Raisin. At the be­gin­ning of this new se­ries, she’s sin­gle, and not ter­ri­bly happy about it. She’s still in­fat­u­ated with her neigh­bour, James (played by Jamie Glover), but he’s now dat­ing some­one else.

Asked about Raisin’s feel­ings for James, Jensen sits back in her chair and smiles know­ingly. “It’s Moon­light­ing, isn’t it?” she grins. “Will they, won’t they? They’re drawn to each other like a mag­net, but some­times it’s like the op­po­site end of a mag­net and they rub each other up the wrong way. He’s the to­tal op­po­site of ev­ery­thing that she is: he’s aca­demic and sen­si­ble and quiet, a proper gen­tle­man in the old sense of the word. She’s be­come fix­ated on him, re­ally.”

Glover reck­ons she still has a shot, too. Miss Marple might have been an avowed spin­ster, but by dab­bling in de­tec­tive work, Raisin draws peo­ple like James to her – and she some­times uses that to her ad­van­tage, like in the first episode where she con­vinces him to pre­tend to be her hus­band so they can go un­der­cover. “They get to live the life of a mar­ried cou­ple with­out be­ing mar­ried,” ex­plains Glover. “I think it’s the start of James thinking, ‘I don’t want to be with you,’ but also ‘I want to be with you.’ It’s good dra­matic ten­sion.” And will there be a happy ending for the two of them? “I re­main com­pletely silent,” he smiles.

Round­ing out Raisin’s crack team of would-be de­tec­tives is Gemma Simp­son.

There’s a place for colour, this is an an­ti­dote to Scandi Noir like The Bridge

Played by Katy Wix, Gemma’s a lo­cal woman em­ployed by Raisin to clean her house. “I don’t do much clean­ing,” Wix laughs of her role. “Too busy try­ing to catch mur­der­ers!”

Gemma is Raisin’s first ally in Cars­ley, and the two of them form a strong bond. Wix ex­plains, “Gemma’s quite tough and no-non­sense, but I re­ally like her re­la­tion­ship with Agatha. It’s re­ally es­sen­tial that she has peo­ple she can trust around her, in this world with all the de­ceit and lies and murders, and I like that Gemma be­comes that. She’s got that hon­esty, and she’s quite fear­less.”

CAST BOND­ING

The at­mos­phere be­hind the scenes seems pretty friendly, too. Jensen hugs Wix en­thu­si­as­ti­cally when she ar­rives, and all of them are bub­bling over with praise for one an­other – par­tic­u­larly Jensen. “It’s dif­fi­cult to talk about Ash­ley with­out sound­ing like an ab­so­lute syco­phant,” says Horne. “She’s dy­na­mite. I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite that level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism whilst re­main­ing an ab­so­lute an­gel of a per­son.” Glover agrees. “It’s not al­ways easy mak­ing an adap­ta­tion of some­thing like this, find­ing ex­actly what the tone is,” he says. “Ash­ley was in­stru­men­tal to that, giv­ing it a light­ness and a wit and in­tel­li­gence, yet keep­ing the stakes high; I think if the stakes weren’t high, if the crime was in­ci­den­tal to the pro­gramme, we’d have been nowhere. She has a great emo­tional ca­pac­ity.” For her part, Jensen seems pretty humble and prag­matic about the whole thing. In per­son, she’s more softly spo­ken than Raisin (though she’s still got that un­mis­take­able Scot­tish ac­cent) and she’s un­fail­ingly po­lite, mak­ing eye con­tact with ev­ery­one and in­ter­rupt­ing her­self mid-sen­tence to thank a wait­ress for her cof­fee. “I’ve had an en­tire ca­reer play­ing peo­ple’s best friends, so I hope I know how to be­have as a lead­ing ac­tor,” she says. “I feel grate­ful to be given the op­por­tu­nity, and I’m at this stage in my life where I’m ready to do it. I felt a bit motherly to­wards every­body! I wanted to know ev­ery­one was all right, be­cause if an ac­tor comes on for a day and they’re a wee bit wor­ried, you’re not go­ing to get the best per­for­mance out of them. I know, be­cause I’ve been there.”

Though she’s best known for comedy like Ex­tras and Catas­tro­phe, Jensen has ap­peared in The Bill, Tag­gart, City Cen­tral and Silent Wit­ness. Agatha Raisin seems like a log­i­cal pro­gres­sion – a chance for Jensen to show off her comedy chops as well as fi­nally claim­ing the lime­light in a crime se­ries.

And she doesn’t be­grudge the show its light-heart­ed­ness. “I love watch­ing The Bridge and The Tun­nel,” she says, “But I think this show is kind of an an­ti­dote to that kind of Scandi Noir. There’s a place for ev­ery­thing, and there’s def­i­nitely a place for a bit of colour.”

Agath­araisin (Ash­ley Jensen) an­droy Sil­ver (Mathew Horne) be­hind­mary For­tune (Daisy Beau­mont, far left) at an event.

Agath­araisin and neigh­bour James Lacey (Jamie Glover). Dc bill Wong (Matt Mc­cooey, left) and­chief In­spec­tor Wilkes (Ja­son Bar­nett) stak­ing out. Deb­o­rah­cam­den (Re­becca Night) and Charles Fraith (Ja­son Mer­rells) share a drink.

Jensen has pre­vi­ous po­lice ex­pe­ri­ence – sort of – with­ricky Ger­vais in Ex­tras.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.