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BBC Doctors presents a week of Shakespeare

“By medicine life may be prolong’d, yet death
Will seize the Doctor too.”
Cymbeline (1609, publ. 1623), Act 5, Scene 5.

In a week of special episodes inspired by a Sonnet, BBC One drama series, Doctors, will be bringing the magic of Shakespeare to the small screen to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

The Sonnets will form part of the narrative and will be heard in voice over at a key point in the story and the episodes will air from Monday 18th April through to Friday 22nd April at 1:45pm each day.

Peter Lloyd: “It’s not just romance we’re covering. Throughout the week there’ll be themes of death, lust, nightmares, loss, and ageing. We even managed to rope superstar singer Jamelia into featuring in one of the episodes.”

Peter Lloyd: “It’s not just romance we’re covering. Throughout the week there’ll be themes of death, lust, nightmares, loss, and ageing. We even managed to rope superstar singer Jamelia into featuring in one of the episodes.”

Talking of the reasons behind the idea, Peter Lloyd, Series Producer said: “As Shakespeare was a Midlands boy we wanted to play a part in the BBC’s celebrations to mark 400 years since his death. On Doctors we have the ability to do something a little different. A lot of people know one of the Sonnets, or lines from them and they can be a bit more digestible than entire plays.”

Peter confirmed that they didn’t consider repeating another ‘Austenland’ style episode for the special week, explaining, “It’s quite a big deal to do something period, it’s also very expensive and the BBC are doing a lot of more traditional Shakespeare so I want to do something a bit different and our regular viewers could see an episode and it was an ordinary episode but then you heard Shakespeare as part of it. For those that aren’t interested they can just watch the episode, but for those who are, hopefully they can appreciate the themes and the story from the original.”

“For one of the episodes we got to film at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon which was wonderful. One of the scenes we filmed there involved Heston reciting Sonnet 73 to Ruhma as a way of wooing her. It is terribly romantic.”

In between scenes filmed at the RSC, I managed to catch up with Owen Brenman (Heston Carter) and Bharti Patel (Rhuma Hanif) to ask them about their own thoughts on Shakespeare.

Dr. Heston Carter and Rhuma Hanif share a tender moment on stage at the RSC

Dr. Heston Carter and Rhuma Hanif share a tender moment on stage at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon

Bharti started by sharing her previous experience of Shakespeare, “Much Ado About Nothing, here at the RSC in 2013, is the only Shakespeare I’ve ever done, which was great. I loved doing it. I played two characters, Verges and Ursula, but they combined the roles for the performance. I’ve been known to say, in the Evening Telegraph (Coventry), that I am not a Shakespeare girl and then I actually worked here and when you break the words down, and you do have to work at it, it’s very transforming.”

Owen spoke about his early acting career, “I did a very little bit of Shakespeare in my second job, I did Comedy of Errors. I also did the The Pocket Dream which is a play about a Shakespeare play going wrong, written by Sandy Tolksvig and I loved doing that. It’s one of those where the shows gone wrong and the backstage staff have to put it on [think Noises Off], which is more my natural home, the comedy side of things.  I always feel with Shakespeare that it’s this huge mountain that’s probably much bigger than it really is and I feel that if you’re a ‘proper’ actor you do Shakespeare, where my background is more comedy sitcom, but everyone thinks whatever someone else does is more important and difficult, it’s just the nature of doing anything creative.”

Standing at the side of the RSC stage, Owen continued, “I quite like Macbeth, oh I’m not supposed to say that” at which point he starts turning a full 360 degrees on stage, “I should call it the Scottish play. I’m no good with his comedies, I find them not that funny, for my taste, so I like the tragedies more. I wouldn’t mind performing Shakespeare on stage but my background is more comedy, through shows like Alexi Sayle and One Foot in the Grave, that’s just the way my career has gone. I do theatre, but I feel more at home on TV, but I do miss the audience of live theatre.”

I asked Bharti what it was like being the new girl on set, she explained, “I think I’ve settled in, they are really lovely. I started last July and everyone has been really lovely and it is a big team and you have to just get in there and get mucky and everybody is there supporting and helping and it feels a really good tight unit and I think because we work so quickly we have to be like that.”

Picking up on a BBC online interview with Bahrti, I asked about her first day prank when she joined Doctors. Immediately dropping into a, near perfect, deep Scottish brougue, she said “I’m nae saying anything noo, I’m just saying Bhhaarrti.”  Owen elaborated, “Oh yes, that’s some nerve. She spent the whole day pretending she was Scottish, on her first day. I went round telling everybody in the office that she was Scottish, and she said her name was Bhhaarrti.” Bharti added, “I only told him three days later.”

In the same interview Bharti ruled out any romance story lines, so I asked her if the story came as a surprise. Bharti confessed, “We know in advance and we know what’s going to happen a little bit so, Bharti the actor, knew. The character, Ruhma, wasn’t expecting anything, it was a bolt out the blue as much as it was for the audience so, definitely, she knew nothing about it. I think she’d just resigned herself to, I’ve got my kids, I’ve got a really great job, I’ve got good mates and that’s my lot.”

To end with I asked, after all the ups and downs of their romance so far, if it was going to be a case of ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ for Heston and Ruhma?

Bharti: “Well, that would be telling.”
Owen: “Go and get your coat, no well done. Is it a case of that, we hope it is, we don’t know for sure do we.”
Bharti: “What ups and downs or a happy ending.”
Owen: “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Bharti: “Oh we’re back on.”

…and with that they were whisked away for another scene.

These special Sonnet-inspired episodes of Doctors will broadcast on BBC One from Monday 18th April – Friday 22nd April at 1.45pm.

BBC One drama series, Doctors, will be bringing the magic of Shakespeare to the small screen with a week of Sonnet based episodes to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

BBC One drama series, Doctors, will be bringing the magic of Shakespeare to the small screen with a week of Sonnet based episodes to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

Monday 18 Apr ‘When in disgrace’ by Dale Overton (Sonnet 29)

A chauffeur faces divorce, unemployment and ill health, but the one shining light in his life keeps him going – his young daughter. Emma visits mum-to-be Rhiannon, who is facing the prospect of Social Services taking away her baby as soon as it’s born. Does Rhiannon deserve this?

Tuesday 19 Apr ‘In ghastly night’ by Ray Brooking (Sonnet 27)

A young student is mourning his failed relationship, and his nights are filled with pain and grief. Will these night terrors force him into drastic action?Rob returns home after a terrible night shift at the station, his sleep constantly disturbed by Karen wanting to discuss her idea to foster difficult kids.

Wednesday 20 Apr ‘Past reason hunted’ by Steph Lloyd Jones (Sonnet 129)

Rob investigates a case of stalking, fuelled by a dangerous lust. But has he got the right man? Anthony’s lust for power and money finally gets the better of him as Daniel frames him for embezzlement and the slippery Practice Manager is finally fired.

Thursday 21 Apr ‘I know she lies’ by Bill Armstrong (Sonnet 138)

Adam and Michelle have a marriage that works, despite the lies. But people can get caught in the crossfire, and when Michelle gets pregnant, events become rather dangerous. Heston takes Ruhma to Stratford for their minibreak, but they argue about Shakespeare, government policy on the Arts and ultimately, fidelity. Heston ruminates that all the women he has been with have lied to him; she is just part of a long line …

Friday 22 Apr ‘Where late the sweet birds sang’ by Hiser & Colgan (Sonnet 73)

Tom and Jerry have been together for fifty years, but as they face death, can they do it together or will they be torn apart? Heston makes his apologies to Ruhma in dramatic fashion. As they explore the RSC on a backstage tour, he’s invited to take to the stage and he recites Sonnet 73, which moves her to tears.

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BBC Doctors on Location at The RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

Owen Brenman (Dr Heston Carter) on the stage at the RSC Stratford-upon-Avon in a break in filming on Friday 29th January 2016.

@OwenBrenman on Twitter: Filming at Stratford #BBCDoctors #RSC

….give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.
–  (As You Like It. Act 2. Scene 7. Jacques.)

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death the BBC daytime soap, Doctors, is currently filming episodes that incorporate Shakespeare into its story lines. During a special Shakespeare Week (18th – 22nd April 2016) each episode will feature a story and theme inspired by a Shakespeare Sonnet.

On Friday 29th January 2016 the cast and crew were busy filming at The RSC Stratford-upon-Avon, where I managed to speak to series producer Peter Lloyd about what inspired the forthcoming week of Shakespeare at the Letherbridge Doctors practice.

Peter explained, “It’s part of BBC celebrations this year for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and we wanted to play in it. We are one of the few shows that are made in the Midlands and Shakespeare is a Midlands boy and on Doctors we have the capacity to do something a little bit different.

I was looking at what the other departments in the BBC were doing and nobody was doing the Sonnets and I’ve always thought the Sonnets are bits of Shakespeare that a lot of people know, or people know lines from and people have them read at weddings and I thought it would be nice to do it for our audience, so all the episodes during the week leading up to the anniversary are based on a Sonnet and the story is inspired by a Sonnet.

We had a huge amount of response from our writers, who all wanted to do one, so I had to choose five.”

Speaking about picking the five episodes that will form the week long celebration of Shakespeare, Peter admitted, “It was very difficult to pick just five episodes as the interpretations were so different. You’d think with the Sonnets it would all be love poems, either to a young boy or a dark lady, but they weren’t. I did some research last summer and found one that was really dark, about rape and lust, and another one about insomnia, it’s a huge variety which I hadn’t really appreciated before. I did nudge the writers to not just think about romance and love and they did, with each episode written by a different writer.

Peter admitted that filming at the RSC is ‘a huge thrill’ and fulfills a boyhood dream, as he used to come to the RSC as a child and remembers being totally overawed by the place so he’s terribly excited to be featuring the RSC in one of the special episodes.

Jamelia in BBC Doctors

Jamelia features in an episode called  ‘Past reason hunted’ by Steph Lloyd Jones inspired by Sonnet 129. Image © BBC

Revealing a Doctors exclusive Peter confirmed that, Birmingham singer and Loose Women host, Jamelia has been cast in one of the special Shakespeare episodes which is due to be filmed in February 2016.

The location shoot, over two days, is also taking to the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon and there are plans to also film at The Fourteas on Sheep Street which will add to the scenes filmed inside the theatre.

BBC Doctors is on BBC One every weekday at 13:45

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Desperately Seeking Pudsey – Children In Need

BBC Midlands Today presenter Nick Owen has been seeking the ever-so-elusive Pudsey Bear all over Birmingham City centre and BBC Birmingham cameras captured the great bear hunt in a short video montage.

As Nick hunts high and low to the sounds of Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Pudsey can be seen taking in the city sights wandering around the Library of Birmingham, Victoria Square, Brindleyplace, Villa Park and Grand Central.

Running into Mr Khan, Daleks, Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) and Jimmi Clay (Adrian Lewis Morgan) along the way it’s a great showcase for Birmingham and celebrates the fantastic total raised this year for the charity.

As those that took one of the Birmingham TV & Film Location walking tours, run in conjunction with Film Birmingham, will be aware the tours have also been raising funds for Children in Need this year by operating as a free event with a suggested donation to the charity. The total raised from the generous donations from all tours in 2015 was £254.

Huge thanks to all that donated to the tour fund raising and an even bigger thank you to everyone that helped this years Children in Need raise a record breaking total.

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Citizen Khan takes over Birmingham

The cast of Citizen Khan take to the red carpet at Cineworld on Broad Street, Birmingham

The cast of Citizen Khan take to the red carpet at Cineworld on Broad Street, Birmingham

On Tuesday 27 October 2015 the nation’s favourite Pakistani Community Leader and Sparkhill resident, Mr Khan, was seen out and about in Birmingham to celebrate the start of the new series of Citizen Khan on BBC One, Friday 30 October 2015.

Before arriving in the trademark Mercedes, at a red carpet preview of the new series at Cineworld on Broad Street, Mr Khan took over the train announcements at Birmingham New Street station.

During the one hour takeover Mr Khan announced trains all over the UK, with one even making a surprise stop at Karachi, although I think that may have been a Mr Khan joke. He also offered commuters insights on the best shopping deals around the region, with 99p toilet rolls in Nottingham (worth the trip alone) and very nice Halal Butchers in Aston, en route to Walsall.

Mr Khan then proved his claim that ‘Everybody knows him’ when he went on a walkabout in the new Grand Central concourse where he was soon surrounded by fans of his show wanting selfies with the self appointed community leader and of course Mr Khan duly obliged.

It did seem that not quite everybody knew him though, as one mother was overheard explaining to her son that the crowd that had gathered around Mr Khan because “he was off the television and was in that show called The Kumars.”

He also took some time out to record a short video piece for The One Show to support the fundraising Rickshaw Challenge

Then it was off to Broad Street where the Khan family arrived in the pouring rain in the yellow Mercedes to meet and greet fans on the red carpet before a special screening of the first two episodes of the new series.  Mr Khan (Adil Ray), Amjad (Abdullah Afzal), Shazia (Krupa Pattani), Naani (Adlyn Ross) and Riaz (Nish Nathwani) all arived in character and mingled with fans who grabbed photographs and videos on their smart phones.

Mr Khan was in demand being interviewed live on air for BBC Midlands Today (or as Mr Khan called it ‘Muslim’ Today), BBC Asian Network Radio and this interview with I Am Birmingham (Twitter).

When asked where Mrs Khan and Alia were he explained that Mrs Khan was busy babysitting their grandson, Mohammed, and that Alia was very busy with her college work and was planning to do her homework at the Mosque until around 4am.

The lucky few that managed to get tickets in the BBC ballot along with some invited guests were then treated to a preview screening of the first two episodes of the new series.

Episode 1: Farley Manor – BBC One Friday 30 October 2015 at 8:30pm
A family day out with the Khans is never going to run smoothly. A chance meeting with Lord Anstruther on a day trip to Farley Manor, filmed at the Elizabethan stately home of Englefield House in Berkshire, may be the stroke of luck Mr Khan needs to get his dream council job but when Naani decides to help herself to some of the historical Indian treasures on display it threatens to ruin Mr Khan’s plans to hobnob with the aristocracy.

Episode 2: Family Photo – BBC One Friday 6 November 2015 at 8:30pm
Mr Khan attempts to take on a fitness regime around the streets of Birmingham, with the help of Amjad, his back problem returns and his plans to secure a school crossing patrol job at a school in Edgbaston are put under threat. Naani has arranged a family photo session in a proper studio, but Alia wants to hijack it for a portrait portfolio for her fashion vlog, which is getting quite a few hits, but for all the wrong reasons.

Both episodes were well received by the preview audience and following the screening, Andy Akinwolere (BBC Inside Out) hosted a question and answer session with the cast, who were now out of character and being themselves.

The new six episode series of Citizen Khan starts at 8:30pm Friday 30 October on BBC One and there will also be an extra Christmas special to look forward to shortly after the fourth series has finished.

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Citizen Khan Series Four – Interview with Adil Ray

On Tuesday 27 October BBC One prime time comedy hero Citizen Khan [played and created by Adil Ray] will be having a day out in the city of Birmingham ahead of the latest series, which returns to our screens on Friday 30 October at 8.30pm.  He will be visiting the city’s landmarks, patrolling through Grand Central with commuters and even taking over the train announcements at Birmingham New Street Station.

Then he will be pushing the boat out for once, treating the Khan family to a special trip to Cineworld Broad Street for a red carpet screening of the new series. Fans can see the whole Khan clan arriving on the red carpet from 5.45pm on Tuesday 27 October and should look out for him causing mischief around the city all day.

Ahead of the preview screening and start of the fourth series, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Adil Ray to chat about the new series, Birmingham and cricket, here is what he had to say.

Joy: Citizen Khan returns to BBC One on Friday 30 October 2015 for the fourth series.

Joy: Citizen Khan returns to BBC One on Friday 30 October 2015 for the fourth series of the comedy show.

I started by asking Adil how he felt that the character of Mr Khan had evolved since his early appearances on Bellamy’s People.

Adil explained, “Initially with Mr Khan, he was quite a satirical character playing a community leader, but as soon as you put him with his wife and his two kids within a family context, he actually becomes a more rounded character. He can laugh, he can cry, he can have a range of emotions, simply because of his relationships with his family members.

The very nature of a family is that it never stops growing and in the last series his daughter, Shazia, has a baby boy so suddenly Mr Khan is a grandfather and his kids are parents so it changes the family dynamic, so it feels that the character has grown in a really organic way.”

Picking up on Mr Khan becoming a grandfather I asked Adil how this might change the way he behaves in the new series.

Adil revealed, “It brings lots of great fun as you can imagine, he wants his grandson to play cricket for England, at one point he thinks his grandson has some secret powers and gets him to try to predict the lottery numbers.  He also tries to get him in, nice and early, to the local private school and this sees him [Mr Khan] going to extraordinary lengths, which involves a fitness regime around Birmingham. He’s also left holding the baby and has to change nappies, so it’s great fun.”

Focusing on the Birmingham fitness regime filming, I asked how the Birmingham public had received Mr Khan when he took to the city streets to film those scenes back in August and how important is was for Adil, as a Brummie, to bring some of the series into the centre of his home city.

Mr Khan poses for a selfie with one of the community in the Cathedral Square

Mr Khan poses for a selfie with one of the community in the Cathedral Square

His response was extremely enthusiastic. “It was really important and it was great fun actually. It was quite trippy, with members of the public not really knowing what was going on and then they spot you and they start taking selfies with you, so it was fantastic and Mr Khan was in his element meeting the general public. It was really important that we did something like this, the show is set in Birmingham and we try to film in Birmingham whenever we can, it’s a great city and it looks fantastic. We filmed around the council house, on Colmore Row and the Cathedral Park and it was really important we got some of that on camera and try to contribute to the buzz that is going on about Birmingham at the moment and people will watch the show on BBC One and think, ‘Oh, Birmingham looks nice, we might pay a visit.'”

“The reception was amazing, we were running around and started high fiving people at bus stops and they were all amazing. Buses were stopping, in fact one bus driver stopped his bus and got off to have a photo taken with me, and I was ‘Hang on, shouldn’t you be driving that bus’, and he said, ‘No it’s OK, I have to have a picture with you first’, so it was good fun.

I know it sounds corny, but it just felt like home, and it is home for me. There is something very special about the people of Birmingham, they really do get behind cultural stuff and they are great supporters and they all put a big smile on my face, it was fantastic.”

Adil seemed very proud of his home city and it’s people so I took the chance to ask what he thought about the latest addition to the city, the new Grand Central and New Street station.

He joked, “It’s amazing, I’ve only got lost three times so far,” before continuing to say, “It’s brilliant and long overdue as Birmingham train station of old really needed something to be done about it but this is fantastic and I think that without King’s Cross in London, it is by far the best train station in the country. For you to get off a train in Birmingham and see that as your first view of the city is brilliant. With everything else that is being developed and the plans for up towards Victoria Square in years to come, the new tram system as well going down to the business quarter, it’s looking really, really great and I just hope Mr Khan gets a slice of it somewhere.

The only thing that’s missing around Victoria Square is room for a Mr Khan statue, that’s really important. I think it’s about time Birmingham showed some respect for it’s leaders, you know there’s, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Chamberlain and Mr Khan, it’s got to go that way.”

With the series four preview screening due to take place on Tuesday 27 October on Broad Street, I asked Adil what we can expect from the event.

Mr Khan hands out high fives to the Colmore Row bus queue.

Mr Khan hands out high fives to the Colmore Row bus queue.

Adil sounded like he was really looking forward to the event, explaining, “It’s going to be great. It’s a chance for us to get back into character, we’ll turn up on Broad Street in the yellow Merc and it would be great if people could come down. We love it, I know the cast love it, so it would be great to speak to as many people as possible, have pictures taken with as many as possible, so come down if you can at 6pm on Tuesday at Cineworld on Broad Street, it will be really good. It seemed like the right thing to do, we worked really hard and it’s nice to be able to give something back to Birmingham and share the moment and celebrate it with people from Birmingham.”

On Friday 23 October, Adil was on the judging panel for a Monologue Slam event at The Rep theatre, so I asked him about his involvement.

Adil seemed thrilled to be involved, saying, “What these guys put on is just brilliant. People can just turn up and take part, it’s basically for the next generation of actors and they come up and perform a one or a three minute piece, whether it’s something they’ve written themselves or they can do a bit of Shakespeare, or a scene from a play or anything they like I guess.

It’s a real privilege for me to sit and watch them because there will be some fantastic performances, and I’m not saying in any way that I’m an expert, but if it means that I can give people some sort of words of encouragement that helps them continue in their careers then that’s only got to be a good thing. I’m really looking forward to it, it should be really good and it’s at the Birmingham Rep, which is a fantastic venue.”

Staying on the theme of theatre, I asked Adil if he might follow Lenny Henry’s lead, following the staging of his radio show Rudy’s Rare Records at the Rep, and bring Citizen Khan to a live stage.

Adil revealed, “Yes, it’s something we are thinking about right now, doing a live tour of Citizen Khan. There are lots of logistics that go with it and it depends on the size and scale of what we’d want to do but it’s certainly something we are considering and hopefully we’ll try to do something like that next year.”

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30th October 2015.

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30 October 2015.

My final question was really aimed at the character rather than the actor as I asked Adil what Mr Khan would make of the latest from the England vs Pakistan test series and particularly the performance of Adil Rashid.

Adil started to answer on Mr Khan’s behalf, before being interrupted by the Sparkhill community leader himself, who said, “At the moment, I’m a Pakistani, Ok. At the moment I support Pakistan, but in five years time I will support England, you know why?  Because they will all be Pakistanis by then.”

Adil took over again and jokingly explained, “What’s happening there is a sign of the times, you’ve already got Adil Rashid, Mooen Ali, there will be no Cooks, there will be no Indians they will all be Pakistanis and that will keep Mr Khan very happy indeed, and he’ll be looking forward to that day.”

Citizen Khan will be back on screen with seven new episodes from Friday 30 October on BBC One at 8.30pm and don’t forget to look and listen out for Mr Khan all day around the city on Tuesday 27 October and tweet your sightings using the hashtag #CKtakeover

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Free preview screening of Citizen Khan in Birmingham

Registration is open for preview screening of Citizen Khan

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30th October 2015.

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30th October 2015. Image Copyright: BBC

A preview screening of two episodes of BBC One’s award winning, primetime sitcom Citizen Khan is to take place in Birmingham city centre on Tuesday 27 October and the BBC is giving local audiences an opportunity to be part of the event.

Birmingham-born Adil Ray (Mr Khan) along with and co-stars Bhavna Limbachia (Alia Khan), Abdullah Afzal (Amjad Malik), Adlyn Ross (Naani) and Krupa Pattani (Shazia Malik) will be in town for the red carpet screening at Cineworld on Broad Street, and audiences will have the chance to join them for a night of comedy.

Details of how to register for tickets for the event are now live via the BBC Shows and Tours website: bbc.co.uk/showsandtours

Now in its fourth series, Citizen Khan is a sitcom set in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham. The show follows the trials and tribulations of larger-than-life self-appointed community leader Mr Khan and his family. The opening episode to be screened at the preview sees the return of comedy legend Peter Bowles (To The Manor Born) return to our screens.

Adil Ray, creator and lead actor in Citizen Khan, said he’s delighted that the screening will be taking place in his home town.

“I’m very much looking forward to celebrating the new series of Citizen Khan with the people of Birmingham. I owe so much to our great city so it’s only right that we share this moment together. Plus Mr Khan needs to shift a few DVDs. He’s currently flogging VHS copies of Crossroads if anyone’s interested?”

Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Birmingham says: “We’re really pleased to be holding the screening of Citizen Khan on its home turf, Birmingham.

“It’s fantastic to have a major BBC One peak time comedy set here and I look forward to watching our city on the big screen alongside our audiences.”

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Behind The Scenes of Doctors Hour Long Episode

Back in May 2015 I was invited on set for the filming of the special hour long episode of BBC Doctors. Now the episode has been on TV I can share some of the images of the filming I took on that day, but beware, if you haven’t seen the special episode yet there may be some spoilers included in the images below.

For those that missed the hour long episode it can be seen on BBC iPlayer until the 10th October 2015.

Letherbridge Cars prop as seen on the set of BBC Doctors

Letherbridge Cars prop as seen on the set of BBC Doctors

The set of the Doctors special episode in Centenary Square as viewed from the Library of Birmigham

The set of the Doctors special episode in Centenary Square as viewed from the Library of Birmingham

A number of market stalls were set up in Centenary Square to create the set

A number of market stalls were set up in Centenary Square to create the set

Is there a Doctor on set? Chris Walker (Rob Hollins), Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Midlane (Al Haskey) pose for a group photo

Is there a Doctor on set? Chris Walker (Rob Hollins), Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Midlane (Al Haskey) pose for a group photo

Some of the regular cast pose for a big group picture with the Bhangra dancers in front of Baskerville House

Some of the regular cast pose for a big group picture with the Bhangra dancers in front of Baskerville House

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) wait for their next scene.

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) wait for their next scene.

Not a doughnut in sight, but Sgt Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) has found the coffee shop

Not a doughnut in sight, but Sgt Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) has found the coffee shop

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) takes a relaxing break in the sun during filming in Centenary Square

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) takes a relaxing break in the sun during filming in Centenary Square

Lorna Laidlaw (Mrs Tembe) and Cornell St John (Rick Joseph) exchange a few words

Lorna Laidlaw (Mrs Tembe) and Cornell St John (Rick Joseph) exchange a few words in a scene rehearsal

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) mingles with the crowd in the Birmingham market in Centenary Square

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) mingles with the crowd in the Birmingham market in Centenary Square

Lenny (Grahame Edwards) tries to sing his song while Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) tries to talk him down

Lenny (Grahame Edwards) tries to sing his song while Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) tries to talk him down

A shot rings out and a man is down. The

A shot rings out and a man is down, the market crowd scatter. The man in the heart costume points out where the gunman may have been firing from to Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) while DCI Driver (Elizabeth Rider) checks on the victim.

Doctors’ executive producer Mike Hobson said: “This is our homage to Birmingham, to say thank you for last 15 years since the show started.  We wanted to set it in the heart of the city. It’s an exciting climax to a hard-hitting storyline.  They are our biggest scenes yet, involving more than 200 people including dhol players and Bhangra dancers.  Drama has always been part of the DNA of BBC Birmingham and the Drama Village in Selly Oak, continues this tradition.”

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BBC Drama Village celebrates tenth anniversary with a ‘Doctors’ special

BBC Doctors Trailer for the special one hour episode that airs on Thursday 10th September 2015 at 1.45pm.

Bhangra dancers filming in Centenary Square in May 2015 for the special one hour episode celebrating 3,000 episodes of the daytime soap.

Bhangra dancers filming in Centenary Square in May 2015 for the special one hour episode celebrating 3,000 episodes of the daytime soap.

Birmingham’s BBC Drama Village are this week celebrating ten years of creating top quality daytime drama with an hour-long special episode of BBC One soap, ‘Doctors’.

Not only is the Drama Village celebrating their tenth anniversary but they’re also marking the milestone of producing 3000 episodes of the daytime favourite.

The episode, which airs on Thursday 10th September at 1.45pm, was filmed earlier this year in Birmingham city centre hot spots like The National Sea Life Centre, Brindley Place and Centenary Square.

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) sits out a scene in Birmingham’s Centenary Square

Doctors’ executive producer Mike Hobson said: “This is our homage to Birmingham, to say thank you for last 15 years since the show started.

“We wanted to set it in the heart of the city. It’s an exciting climax to a hard-hitting storyline. They are our biggest scenes yet, involving more than 200 people including dhol players and Bhangra dancers.”

Drama has always been part of the DNA of BBC Birmingham and the Drama Village in Selly Oak, continues this tradition.

Will Trotter, head of daytime Drama at The Drama Village, says he’s delighted with the Drama Village’s success over the years.

“We, at the Drama Village produce nearly 130 hours of programming every year, including Father Brown which has seen global success; WPC 56 which returned for a third series earlier this year, and our latest commission – The Coroner is set to be on screens early next year.  Not to forget our classics episodes of Dalziel & Pascoe and The Afternoon Play Series.”

Eddie Redmayne as Rob Huntley in a 2003 episode of Doctors called 'Crescendo' Image Copyright: BBC

Eddie Redmayne as Rob Huntley in a 2003 episode of Doctors called ‘Crescendo’

Set on the grounds of the University of Birmingham, The Drama Village employs well over 100 people.

“By being based at the University, we’re always looking at ways of working together, with filming locations, workshops, mentoring and work placements.”

Emilia Clarke as Saskia Mayer in a 2009 episode of Doctors called Empty Nest

Emilia Clarke as Saskia Mayer in a 2009 episode of Doctors called Empty Nest

“‘Doctors’ in particular is somewhat of a training ground for new talent both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Many writers, directors and performers have their first break in TV drama through this unit including Hollywood stars Eddie Redmayne [Birdsong, The Theory of Everything] and Emilia Clarke [Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys]. ”

“I’m proud to say that the Drama Village has become a gateway for young talent to hone their skills, craft and creativity. It’s great for the Midlands.”

Eddie Redmayne’s success continues as he is currently filming the film adaptation of J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them where he plays Newt Scamander. Emilia Clarke recently completed filming Me Before You which is scheduled for a June 2016 release.

You can learn more about the special hour long episode in a series of interviews with some of the cast of Doctors from the filming day back in May 2015 available on the links below.

Chris Walker – Sgt Rob Hollins

Ian Kelsey – Howard Bellamy

Ian Midlane – Al Haskey

Lorna Laidlaw – Mrs Tembe

All Images Copyright: BBC

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Doctors Celebrating 3,000 Episodes – Lorna Laidlaw Interview

Back in May 2015 the cast and crew of Doctors went out on location in Birmingham city centre to record scenes for a special hour long episode to celebrate the milestone of reaching 3,000 episodes of the popular BBC daytime soap.  With the special hour long episode due on screen on 10th September it won’t be long now before we all get to see what happened

The official press release is cloaked in secret but does give a hint of what to expect in what promises to be an exciting climax to an ongoing story of police corruption in Letherbridge.

A shooting in a city centre, A dance with a whiff of romance, A damaged child saved…and corruption exposed.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with a few of the cast in between scenes. My final cast interview of the day was with, the ever-bubbly, Lorna Laidlaw who plays The Mill receptionist Mrs Tembe. Lorna was extremely popular so I teamed up again with Roz Laws from the Birmingham Mail and we were also joined by the team from What’s On TV to put some questions to Lorna.

Lorna Laidlaw with a photo of herself as Ursula in the Frank Skinner comedy "Blue Heaven" from 1992

A smiling Lorna Laidlaw with a photo of herself as Ursula in the Frank Skinner Channel 4 comedy “Blue Heaven” from 1994

Before we started the interview I gave Lorna a set of photos from episode two of a 1994 TV series called Blue Heaven. One photo shows Lorna, sporting a red baseball cap and a catering uniform, along with that trademark smile, playing trolley attendant Ursula at Stourbridge Station.  Her reaction to the photos was fantastic (see left), and it put a huge smile on her face as memories of filming the show nearly 21 years earlier came flooding back to her.

Roz started the group questions by asking about Mrs Tembe’s role in the special episode.

Lorna explained, “Mrs Tembe has organised a health promotion day and they are trying to get more people to donate more organs and to give blood and specifically people from ethnic minority groups and the other person who is organising it, Mrs Tembe has what I’d like to call a little, mini, romance with.”

The What’s on TV team asked Lorna if she had any particular stand out stories that Mrs Tembe had been involved in.

Lorna said, “Oh my gosh, there have been quite a few.  When I first started it was all about establishing the character to get people used to what she’s like.  Then we did a massive racism story, which was pretty harrowing, and it was fantastic as we had Mrs Tembe leave at the end of it, to go home just to recover from it. We had loads of people saying ‘Please don’t let her go, please’ so you get a picture of what they think of the character.  Then we had the romance of course, with the vicar, which was very popular and people really embraced that and they really wanted it to happen, they were ready for her to have a romance.  It was a very slow burn, the romance happened really slowly and people started to buy hats, I thought, don’t they know it’s Doctors, someone is bound to get killed off somewhere.”

Lorna Laidlaw takes time out to check her phone while waiting for her next scene in Centenary Square

Lorna Laidlaw takes time out to check her phone while waiting for her next scene in Centenary Square

Lorna explained what was great about the show by saying, “You can suggest things. You can go, I’d really like a romance, so you’d talk about what you want and they will write it. I said to them, I really want to do something about forgiveness, because forgiveness for a Christian is a big thing and also we choose what we forgive, so I said it needs to be big enough so she has to struggle to forgive this person and that is how the rapist story came about. [You can suggest] even little short stories, I said I’d like to do a story about Mrs Tembe having a bad back and her having to go for massages and again, that thing about people living on their own [dealing with] physical contact, so it’s really interesting that you can go there and suggest things, it’s absolutely brilliant.”

It was clear from speaking to Lorna that her accent and that of Mrs Tembe were quite different, so I asked how she had managed to perfect Mrs Tembe’s Botswana accent.

Lorna joked, “It’s when you are at the supermarket and somebody goes, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know you were a Brummie’. I’ve done a few shows in a South African accent and the Botswanan accent is just north of South Africa so you just soften all the edges on it. I did go to a voice coach, and she was the voice coach of the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, so I was in good hands and I really trusted everything she said, and she said ‘your accent is really brilliant but I’d just soften it,’ and that’s all I did, and she said ‘that’s perfect’.  I’ve met some people from Botswana and they absolutely thought I was from Botswana.”

Lorna Laidlaw gets some finishing touches to her make-up

Lorna Laidlaw gets some finishing touches to her make-up on set in Centenary Square

Lorna explained the fans reaction to Mrs Tembe by describing the character as “…like Marmite, you either love her or can’t stand the sight of the woman, but she’s a brilliant character to play. Sometimes people that are in love with her say, ‘I didn’t like that storyline’ and people who didn’t like her before go ‘Oh my God, I’ve seen another side to her that I didn’t know was there.’ I find it quite interesting how you can play with people’s emotions and they are with you sometimes and against you others and that is brilliant, I think it’s the whole idea of really good drama. I think on the whole they absolutely LOVE her, they really do love her, because she’s quite complicated. She’s Christian, she’s quite forthright and the romance story has softened all the edges, but people quite enjoyed seeing that, she’s quite vulnerable, I think she’s a very interesting character to play.”

Roz asked if Mrs Tembe would still find love, Lorna replied, “Do you know what, I think her time has come again, and again I think it should be complicated and difficult. I think it would be really great to get somebody that Mrs Tembe would never think she would be with. I think she really loves people in professional roles, she’s very respectful of that, but actually somebody like a plumber, I think it would be really interesting if it was a struggle for her to try to find a connection, but who knows with the world of Doctors.”

On the subject of romance, I took the opportunity to ask Lorna who she would cast as Mrs Tembe’s love interest. Lorna had already clearly give this some careful thought, and said, “Ok, listen to this, I’ve already put it out there, because sometimes when you put it out there it happens. Me and Denzel [Washington]. I’ve already put it out there, because sometimes you never know, he might be looking at Hello magazine or something like that, and be like ‘Oh that’s interesting, I’ve not seen that lady before, she looks hot’. I think it would be awesome, me and Denzel.”

Lorna spoke briefly about the recent TV soap awards and was thrilled that all the other soaps congratulated Jessica Regan on her Best Newcomer award and said it was about time they were recognised. She added, “It’s really brilliant, because actually there are just twelve of us, just twelve people hold this show together for a year and you think of the vast cast in Emmerdale and Eastenders and Hollyoaks, we have a tiny amount of people, so it’s a big thing. When we were in triple banking at the beginning of the year, we were juggling twelve scripts, that’s a big thing. The budget is tiny, you know, two pound fifty and a packet of wine gums, that’s not going to get you anywhere love. It’s not going to get you Denzel.”

Mrs Tembe has some issues with Rick Joseph

Mrs Tembe clearly has something to say in the special hour long celebration episode.

To finish with I asked Lorna what she thought of Lenny Henry’s recent stage adaptation of Rudy’s Rare Records at The Rep and if she planned to do more theatre shows herself. Lorna said, “I thought Lenny’s show was absolutely fantastic, again really celebrating Birmingham and Handsworth, places like the canals, it was just fantastic, and I’m just waiting for it to come on telly. I went to the live screening at The Drum and it was just great, real good belly laughs. I was at The Rep last year, I did a [Bertolt] Brecht [The Mother], I did a show in The Studio [For The Past 30 Years], I write and I direct as well, so I juggle all that in between Doctors. If you are working with a young writer then you help them, because one day you know they will pay you back, so let’s get you doing what you need to do, because there is no money for new work at the moment, and it’s a real shame. Supporting new work and developing new work is absolutely crucial.”

Lorna ended by saying, “I’m very lucky, I love theatre and having that creativity in Doctors, you can suggest things, you can work on the script, so that creativity is still there, I KNOW I am very, very lucky and the thing about Denzel, I’m still pushing it.”

More photos from the day will be published later this week after the special hour long episode has been broadcast and the Doctors filming location now features in the Birmingham TV & Film locations walking tour that operates in conjunction with Film Birmingham.

You can see What’s On TVs video interviews with Lorna on their website, where she talks about Denzel and Romance.

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Danny and the Human Zoo – Mon 31st Aug 2015

In the week before the screen debut of Lenny Henry’s semi-biographical story of a young comedian growing up in and finding fame in Dudley, Roz Laws in the Birmingham Evening Mail has been running a few stories about the making of the show and what to expect when it goes out on Monday 31st August.

Lenny Henry on the things he wished his father had said

Arthur Darvill’s on creating a 1970’s sleazeball

Behind the scenes on the set of Danny and the Human Zoo

In the articles Roz reveals some of the locations used by the production team when making the show, they include;

  • Banqueting Palace on Birchfield Road, Aston
  • Margaret Street, Birmingham
  • Moseley Village, Birmingham
  • Claughton Community Centre, Dudley
  • Dudley Market
  • Fountain Arcade, Dudley
  • Dudley Zoo and Castle
  • Koh-i-Noor Restaurant on Bristol Street, Birmingham
  • Albany Theatre, Coventry
  • Buffery Park, Dudley
  • Netherton canal tunnel
  • Thomas Dudley Foundry, Dudley
  • Blackpool North Pier Theatre – The only non-Midlands location used

Look out for these and other familiar locations during the 90 minute drama at 9pm on Bank Holiday Monday.

If you missed the show you can catch it on iPlayer until 28th September and if you are still unsure if you should watch then check out these twitter comments that were posted during or shortly after it aired.  It was a huge hit.

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