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THIS WEEK New ITV drama, Flesh and Blood, set on location in Normans Bay gains national attention


COMMUNITY Life of local campaigner, Jan Barron, to be celebrated in community with new award


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image credit: ITV studios

Anticipation with regard to the new ITV drama, Flesh and Blood, filmed on location in Normans Bay last summer, is gaining ground as we move towards the announcement of the broadcast date cited for later this month.

Trailers for the drama are now being featured on ITV on a daily basis. The story features a stellar cast, including Francesca Annis, Imelda Staunton, Stephen Rea and Russell Tovey.

The original thriller is a modern story of three adult siblings, exploring universal themes of relationships, trust, loyalty and love against the backdrop of the build-up to, and aftermath of, a tragic crime.

The already dysfunctional lives of Helen, Jake and Natalie are thrown into disarray when their recently widowed mother Vivien declares she’s in love with a new man. Their suspicions are heightened as retired surgeon Mark sweeps their mother off her feet, shifting her priorities away from her children.

Years of secrets, lies, rivalries and betrayals come to the surface and threaten to blow apart everything they’ve held dear.

The importance of the ‘anonymous’ location is becoming clear as articles across the mainstream media explore the starting plot lines of the psycho-drama and the role played by the landscape.

Might we be looking at the birth of a modern classic?

The relationship established between character and landscape appears to betray an understanding of the principle of intimacy between people and place,

The novels of Thomas Hardy are identifiable as taking place in a semi-mythical early to mid-ninteenth  century rural Wessex, ‘lifted’ from real stories researched from fifty years before the novels were written

Hardy is now known to have employed a clever trick to give the stories that sense of reality. He went out of his beloved Dorset, to places like Stamford library and studied the local press from fifty years before.

The stories were grafted onto the Wessex map, with the gentle rolling landscape of Dorset occupying a central role in each novel. No-one could remember a real Mayor of Casterbridge, but the story sounded so true. That is because the plot was partly based on a local press report, from a different part of the country, from fifty years before the novel was written.

This was one of the ways in which his novels were embedded with this sense of being ‘modern parables’, particularly in relation to his positive portrayal of women.

He shifted the ground out of time and turned the landscape into a character.

Here with Flesh and Blood, the director of the original drama, Louise Hooper has employed an interesting technique with the utiliisation of a local landscape, making the setting anonymous but specific.

We are not intended to know that we are in Normans Bay, but of course local people will know that this is the case.

This anonymity but specificity to the location appears to be the key to the telling of the story.

The key to the story and also the power and glory.

We are about to see a ‘modern parable’. Like all parables the story is intended to travel through time, and in this case, most importantly, space and location.

Talking to Megan Hutton at Good Housekeeping, Louise Hooper said “I wanted it to be like a modern parable, you’ve got the sea – which you’ve got no control over – you’ve got the shingle and the two houses. A bit like a theatre stage, you’ve got the characters that come into that. There’s no town or city, we’re not anchored to anything so it floats in its own little heightened story… We’re trying to do something different from the gritty, monochromatic noir which is very plot and detail driven. It’s something which is light and funny and joyful I hope”.

This is a interesting approach which makes the unnamed Normans Bay in the drama, a lead character.

The description of the stage set will be familiar to residents of Normans Bay and to visitors to Normans Bay.

The distinct landscape is both striking and dramatic, somewhat removed from the feel of other seaside locations in East Sussex, a little stark perhaps, but this is what gives the place individuality and, for some people, a breathtaking idiosyncratic beauty.

The decision by the location manager to chose Normans Bay for director Louise Hooper, may prove to be inspired, in the same way that Thomas Hardy in choosing news reports from Stamford in the late eighteenth century was inspired.

In the case of Hardy, he was looking for real plot to graft onto the semi-mythical Wessex landscape. In this case we are looking at a real landscape on which to graft ‘a modern parable’.

Are we about to sink into our armchairs to watch what could become a modern classic?

The role of the landscape with the story, which no doubt will become immediately obvious to the local audience in Normans Bay and Pevensey Bay, from the first reel, will become a familiar character to a wider audience.

The story features a mysterious death that keeps fans guessing, but there is light and shade and, most importantly, a female perspective.

A female perspective was what delivered so much new insight into the telling of the story of Christine Keeler in the fact based story about the notorious Profumo Affair. The Trial of Christine Keeler, recently shown on BBC1 was hailed a triumph.

As Megan Hutton at Good Housekeeping explains, director Louise Hooper is not the only person involved in the project who describes it as lighter viewing.

Talking about why she took on the part of Vivien, Francesca Annis told Megan, “I liked that this wasn’t an angst-stricken part – I’ve played quite a few of those. I loved the script and when I met Louise and Sarah Williams, (the writer) and it was very much going to be a female-driven project I thought that was just wonderful. Louise promised she would be very open to suggestion and empowering and that’s exactly what she was. I thought that made the whole project for me quite an exciting adventure.”

The ‘modern parable’ on the ‘stage set’ of Normans Bay is about to broadcast.

The views of local people in both Normans Bay and Pevensey Bay will be of interest.

We are setting up a ‘Gogglebox’ style armchair review slot as a voxpop test to see what local people think of the drama.

We will publish a set of ‘next day reviews’. If you would to be one of the four ‘Gogglebox style’ local reviewers, you can contact us here. info@pevenseybaylife.co.uk

The modern parable with ‘the sea which you’ve got no control over’ and ‘the shingle and the two houses’, a bit like ‘a theatre stage’, looks set to become a talking point.

As the characters walk on to the set, the drama may become a talking point in homes, hairdressers and cafes all over the country.

Already there is talk of a potential second series.

Writer Sarah Williams has suggested, “with season one yet to air, questions are already being raised about a potential follow-up series. I could see myself revisiting the family”.

She added, “without explaining too much of what happens, there is further meat on the bone. I love these characters and I did get very attached to all of them. I would love to follow on their story, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves, we have to see if anyone watches this,”

Whether Normans Bay is ready for the attention is a separate question.

Flesh and Blood airs on ITV later this month.

Simon Montgomery