Trou­bled times leave a com­mu­nity at war PICK OF THE WEEK

Wilmslow Express - - TV WEEK -

Films and TV dra­mas are noth­ing with­out a de­cent script – and yet, the writer is of­ten forgotten amidst the hurly burly of star names and hot di­rec­tors. But that’s not the case with JK Rowl­ing. She’s one of the most fa­mous au­thors in the world thanks to her all-con­quer­ing, mul­ti­mil­lion-sell­ing Harry Pot­ter fran­chise, and when that came to an end, ev­ery­one wanted to know what she would do next. The an­swer was The Ca­sual Va­cancy, Sun­day, BBC1, 9pm, her first nonPot­ter re­lated work; it also be­came the fastest-sell­ing Bri­tish novel writ­ten for adults in three years when it hit shops in 2012. It cer­tainly came as no sur­prise when the BBC grasped the op­por­tu­nity to adapt it for the small screen. Rowl­ing her­self has not writ­ten the screen­play; Sarah Phelps, whose pre­vi­ous work in­cludes EastEn­ders, The Crim­son Field, Great Ex­pec­ta­tions and And Then There Were None, was en­trusted with the task.“Sarah Phelps is a writer at the top of her game,” says Rowl­ing.“Hav­ing met Sarah, and dis­cussed the tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion of The Ca­sual Va­cancy, I was happy and con­fi­dent to hand over the job of craft­ing my novel for the small screen. Sarah has done a great job and I am de­lighted with how it has turned out.” Thanks to its de­pic­tion of in­ter­wo­ven lives in an English vil­lage, The Ca­sual Va­cancy has been likened to a Dick­en­sian tale, so Phelps’ pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of adapt­ing his work may have come in handy. Set in the seem­ingly idyl­lic Pag­ford in the West Coun­try, the plot fol­lows what hap­pens af­ter the sud­den death of Barry Fair­brother, a lo­cal parish coun­cil­lor who pas­sion­ately wanted to keep an im­por­tant lo­cal le­gacy in­tact – but was meet­ing fierce op­po­si­tion from chair­man Howard Mol­li­son. Af­ter Barry’s death, the fight for his seat on the coun­cil be­gins, while the lives of those who knew and loved him are changed in nu­mer­ous ways. The three-part drama’s premise may sound bleak, but Phelps in­sists there’s lots of light among the shade.“If you’re do­ing per­ma­nently bleak, you just see the tragedy and be­come numb to the bleak,” Phelps ex­plains.“It needs to be shot through with mo­ments of ab­so­lute trans­for­ma­tive glory about what it is to be alive and the pos­si­bil­ity of love and hope in the fu­ture. Which means when you see the dark­ness, you can re­ally see it. “Also, you have to have hu­mour be­cause hu­mour is life and is in the nor­mal way peo­ple talk to each other. The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in The Ca­sual Va­cancy are not aware they have the power to change. They are just self­ish. So their self­ish­ness is funny in a way. I think hu­mour is dif­fer­ent to com­edy. If you’re play­ing a hu­man be­ing, there’s go­ing to be hu­mour in there.”

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