Posts Tagged Film Birmingham

Lenny comes home – bringing Danny and the Human Zoo

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Dudley Premiere of Lenny Henry’s Danny and the Human Zoo on 20th August 2015 and now I have watched the 90 minute drama, I can confidently say you are in for a Bank Holiday treat.  The wonderfully entertaining 90 minute premiere was followed by a Q&A, hosted by Radio WM’s Adrian Goldberg, with questions put to director Destiny Ekaragha, writer Lenny Henry and lead actor Kascion Franklin.

Danny and the Human Zoo is loosely based on Lenny’s own early life in Dudley and his rise to fame through the ATV Talent Show, New Faces, which was recorded at the recently demolished ATV Studios on Broad Street, Birmingham.

Danny and the Human Zoo Review

Following an opening text that claims the ‘events are real…honest’, a needle drops onto a vinyl record and we are treated to a brief burst of Mille’s My Boy Lollipop and introduced to a dancing Danny, way back in 1964.  The next decade soon arrives and so do the hits of the era, which cement the action firmly in the seventies, and bring a recollective smile to the faces of many of the lucky few that have obtained tickets. The music throughout is wonderful, it even has a theme tune, Pharrell William’s Freedom, that is so catchy you will be humming it for days to come.

As well as the music the 70s fashions, cars and even the TV shows of the era are all perfectly represented with clips from Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game, Mike Yarwood and Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em featuring on the family TV. Director Destiny Ekaragha made an amusing reference to the Dudley Zoo chair lift in the Q&A, stating she was scared to ride it as she thought it was a very authentic 1970s attraction, to be corrected by Lenny Henry who informed it it WAS the original 1970s Dudley Zoo attraction she had ridden.

The title role of Danny is played by Wednesbury actor  Kascion Franklin, in his first major role, and if this is the standard of his performance then he has a long and successful career ahead of him. He absolutely shines as Danny, playing comedy and tragedy with seemingly effortless and equal measure and creates an extremely likable character that you warm to immediately.  Danny struggles with racist bullying both in and out of school and there are a few phrases that were difficult to hear in our modern era, but that only helps to recreate the social environment of a 1970s era Dudley.

Throughout his story Danny is supported by his Black Country mates, who have some great lines all delivered in a wonderful local dialect by the young cast, however, they are knocked firmly into second place in the accent stakes by Danny’s Jamaican family, in particular Cecilia Noble, who puts in an award winning performance as Danny’s mother Myrtle.  Lenny Henry’s role, as Danny’s dad Samson, is also perfectly played and while his screen time is quite limited, he puts in a perfectly measured performance while letting the other characters and his heartwarming and honest script take centre stage.

Other familiar faces to look out for include, Arthur Darvill (Dr Who) as Danny’s manager Jonesy, Mark Benton (Waterloo Road) as a not so pleasant compare, Syd Bolton, at a Working Man’s Club, Cherrelle Skeete (Ordinary Lies) as Danny’s policewoman sister Dee Dee and Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter) as Danny Irish barmaid girlfriend, Bridget.  There is even a brief appearance by Richard Wilson as promoter James Broughton, who thinks absolutely nothing of adding the young black impressionist to the line-up of his Black and White Minstrel show as well as appearances from James and Oliver Phelps (Harry Potter) who play the twin managers of the Queen Mary’s Ballroom at Dudley Zoo.

There are plenty of location spotting opportunities throughout with scenes filmed at Dudley Zoo, Netherton Canal and a factory in Tipton as well as some scenes that were filmed in Moseley and Birmingham, including the Banqueting Palace at Perry Barr.

The show is witty and funny with some laugh out loud moments but it also has some darker moments with family tragedy, manipulative agents and those brief racist moments that will no doubt leave those viewers too young to remember the seventies open mouthed in shock.  What comes across really clearly is that Lenny loves Dudley and as he said in the Q&A he could not have made this film anywhere else and he seemed genuinely proud to bring his story back home.

Even though I’ve seen it already, I can’t wait to watch it all over again on Bank Holiday Monday.

Further Coverage

Birmingham Mail

Express and Star

Radio Times

BBC Midlands Today


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Free Preview Screening – Danny and the Human Zoo

Not long to wait now until we get to see, the Sir Lenny Henry written drama, Danny and the Human Zoo as it’s scheduled to air late August 2015.  If you can’t wait until then you may want to apply for some FREE tickets for a special preview screening in Lenny’s hometown of Dudley on Thursday 20th August as the BBC is giving local audiences an opportunity to be part of the event.

Lenny and co-star Kascion Franklin, together with director, Destiny Ekaragha will be in the town that night for a red carpet screening at the Showcase Cinema in Castlegate, Dudley.

Details of how to register for tickets for this very special evening are now live via the BBC Shows and Tours website, but be quick as the registration period closes at midday on Thursday 13th August 2015.

Written by and starring Lenny Henry, Danny and the Human Zoo is the fictionalised account of his life as a talented teenager in 1970s Dudley. It follows the rise to fame of the character Danny (played by Kascion Franklin) growing up in a first-generation Jamaican family, as he tries to make it as a stand-up comedian.

As some of the drama was filmed in and around Dudley, the BBC are distributing tickets via a random draw with 50% of tickets going to Dudley postcodes, giving locals the opportunity to see their town being featured in the drama.

Joe Godwin, Director, BBC Birmingham says: “We’re really pleased to be holding the screening of Danny & The Human Zoo in Dudley, providing us the opportunity to give our local audiences a real treat. It’s fantastic to have a major BBC One peak time drama focusing on the West Midlands. We look forward to welcoming Lenny back to his hometown and for the audience to enjoy what promises to be a memorable evening.”

On Monday 10th August a preview screening was held at the Charlotte Street Hotel, London and here are a few audience comments about the show on social media site Instragram;

outtheboxuk said: “We attended the screening of #DannyandTheHumanZoo tonight! Loved every minute of it! Such a real depiction of what it was like to grow up as a black kid in 1970s Dudley! Everything was on point. Can’t wait for you all to see it! Well done @kascion for a great lead role. And to Lenny Henry for a great story and Destiny Ekaragha for directing such a great piece!

inherweinspire said: “Yesterday I got the chance to see the screening of DannyandTheHumanZoo. The dialogue/writing beautifully and humorously crafted by Lenny Henry. Fantastic acting from lead @kascion. @d_ekaragha17 captured the heart of the script. It was a rollercoaster of emotions full of laughter, intensity and rage. The acting was incredible and the story and characters bought back some childhood memories… It’s a MUST watch once this is released!!!

nupeoplemaguk said: “Caught Lenny Henry’s ‘Danny And The Human Zoo’ Last night at the press screening. Hilarious and hard hitting at the same time. Will be airing on BBC One soon. Directed by @d_ekaragha17

oggiemusic said: “My sis @d_ekaragha17 and the #LEGEND @LennyHenry @ the screening of there new film #DannyAndTheHumanZoo a semi-biopic of #lennyhenry ‘s life written by Lenny and directed by my sis #destinyekaragha . I can’t begin to tell you guys what a fantastic film this as well as being hysterical, it is extremely emotional in parts, it’s brilliantly written and directed with an incredible cast, and will air on #BBC1 at the end of the month, don’t miss it!

and it got rave reviews on Twitter too;

Danny and The Human Zoo was written by Lenny Henry and directed by Destiny Ekaragha. It was produced for the BBC by RED Production Company and is to be broadcast on BBC ONE this autumn.

Follow @BBCBhamPR and #dannyandthehumanzoo for information and updates.

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‘Brummiewood’ filming

With two full length movies and a TV series filming in and around Birmingham right now, it is looking like the lack of a permanent production facility in the city is not putting off the movie and TV makers from using the city as the location for their creativity.


The latest project from Electric Cinema owner, Tom Lawes, has been filming around the UK since September. The production has been filming in Birmingham where some scenes were filmed on Colmore Row and the fictional British Crime Agency headquarters has been built inside the former Birmingham Municipal Banking Hall.

Monochrome Movie BCA Set

Monochrome Movie: British Crime Agency Headquarters set inside the former Birmingham Municipal Bank on Broad Street. Image Source: Monochrome Movie Facebook Page

Monochrome has also filmed scenes in Pershore and in Devon, where a news of a helicopter stunt over Raparee Beach made the North Devon Gazette.

The film is a psychological thriller centred around the British Crime Agencies and their search for Emma, a young woman who has turned killer after fleeing to the countryside following the arrest of her boyfriend. To track her down the BCA hire a detective with the neurological condition, synesthesia.

Stars of film include Jo Woodcock (Land Girls, Doctors – Both produced by the BBC Drama village in Birmingham), singer songwriter Cosmo Jarvis (Spooks: The Greater Good – some scenes also filmed in the Midlands). There is also a great support cast which includes James Cosmo (Highlander, Trainspotting, Braveheart), Charles Venn (Eastenders), Lee Boardman (Coronation Street, Great Night Out), Delroy Brown (Scott & Bailey) and Jan Francis (Emmerdale).

The Call Up

The Call Up has been part-funded through Creative England’s West Midlands Production Fund has been written and will be directed by award winning commercials director Charles Barker. The principal photography on the started in November in an undisclosed Birmingham location.

The action sci-fi film is set in the world of computer gaming technology see a group of elite online gamers taking on a testing invitation to try out a new cutting-edge, revolutionary gaming experience however they soon realise that the game is real and they facing a true fight for survival in a game that has suddenly turned very sinister.

The cast also includes Max Deacon (Into the Storm, The Promise), Morfydd Clark (The Falling), Ali Cook (The Anomaly, The Messenger and former Magician on Monkey Magic) and Tom Benedict Knight (Dracula Untold, Houdini).

WPC 56 – Series 3

Filming has reached week four on the third series of the successful 1950s police drama and the cast have already been spotted at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and Chateau Impney in Droitwich.

Annie Taylor is the a new WPC on the Brinford beat and is played by Midlander Claudia Jessie. The series two regulars Liam Jeavons, James Barriscale and Rachel Leskovac all return as PC Tommy Perkins, Sgt John Swift and secretary Susie Nightingale.

The previous two series of the show are currently being aired in Australia (BBC First), New Zealand (Sky TV) and the United States (WETA UK) making it an international success along with Peaky Blinders, with both shows spreading tales of Birmingham past across continents.

Maybe Peaky Blinders creator Stephen Knight has a point when he champions Birmingham as the location for a new base for film making as the demand to film in the city is certainly there, it just needs the facility to attract even more, and this can only be good news for the city and the council run Film Birmingham team.

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Behind the Scenes at Dancing on the Edge

As I write I still have the final episode of this great period drama to watch, but the first four episodes have been gripping.  After a slow first twenty or so minutes the drama really kicks in, especially as the character personalities start to develop, adding extra intrigue to the drama. The music, whilst not my normal listening pleasure, has been fabulous and really helps set the mood of the period.

The cast are all excellent with star performances from Matthew Goode and Chiwetel Ejiofor and Stanley and Louis respectively. I should also add that the vocal performances from Angel Coulby and Wunmi Musaka are simply breathtaking and lift the Jazz band sound once they are added to the line up in episode one.

If you’ve missed the series the DVD and soundtrack are available to order on Amazon and I highly recommend them both.

Birmingham Film & TV Tour update

I recently met with Film Birmingham again and we have discussed the possibility of including some of the locations used in Dancing on the Edge in some TV & Film walking tours later this year. I’ll update this site with details as and when they become available, so watch this space.

Meanwhile you can check out some fascinating behind the scenes photographs of Dancing on the Edge from Creative England on their Facebook page, including the stunning Ballroom at the Grand Hotel on Colmore Row and the impressive Banqueting Suite at Birmingham’s Council House. They also feature other West Midlands and Warwickshire locations with details of scenes filmed at Dudley’s Black Country Living Museum and Alcester’s Ragley Hall.

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