‘The police are terrified’: Sherwood TV series on strikers, scabs, miners and murder

OneThe Nottinghamshire village of nnesley Woodhouse, where James Graham grew up, was twice inundated by hordes of police and the media.The playwright was an infant for the first time, in 1984-5 miners strike. But the second time was in 2004, when he had just returned from the University of Hull, when Keith Frogson, a former miner, was murdered. “In the first moments,” Graham said, “the police were afraid that someone would kill someone because of the strike.”

The case was further complicated when another villager, Chanel Taylor, was killed, bringing more police to the scene.Fascinated by the psychology of the police returning to the community, whose actions during the strike were widely condemned, Graham feigned double trouble as Sherwood, a six-part BBC drama. Some of the Robin Hood’s expectations that viewers guided by the title were not entirely wrong: the crossbow was one of the weapons of murder, and the vast verdant canopy of Sherwood Forest became one of the biggest manhunts in British history.

But what drives the story is coal deep in the leaves. Amid the year-long industrial action that defined Margaret Thatcher’s second term and undermined the mining industry and unions, what is unusual about the Nottinghamshire coalfields is that most miners continue to work. “Three-quarters of people went back to work,” Graham said. “Only a dozen people in my village were left outside. In Hull, there were a few times when people would get angry at ‘scab county’ when I mentioned I was from Nottinghamshire. Decades later, in Nottinghamshire,” the worker said. Thieves’ and ‘strikeers’ sat in different corners of the bar or crossed the road to avoid each other.”

David Morrissey, who plays the police chief investigating murders, recalls a vivid story from his research: “Even now, 40 years from now, if a football team in Mansfield or Nottingham went to play , say, Barnsley or another Yorkshire club, they will be taunted, shouting, “Scab! scab! ‘ One guy told me he would stand in his seat and yell, ‘Yeah, but not me!’ So these divisions are still playing out. “

“Your heart sinks a little bit when your agent tells you the character is a cop”…David Morrissey and Lindsay Duncan in Sherwood. Photo: Matt Squire/BBC/House Productions

Morrissey “sort of forgets that miners in Nottinghamshire are mostly working”. He has a clearer memory of another element of the play, “Spy Police” Story: Alleged use of undercover police officers and spies to infiltrate mining communities. “Through Line of Duty and other shows,” Graham said, “people have gotten used to the idea of ​​undercover policing. So one of the challenges of this show is to let people know that this is not terrorism or organized crime being investigated, and It’s normal people who have spies show up at their workplaces or at their kids’ birthday parties and report it. Why there isn’t more outrage, I don’t understand.”

for Leslie Manville, Sherwood, who plays Julie Jackson, the wife of one of the victims in Graham’s story, has resurfaced buried memories. In 1984, she was involved in a performance at the Royal Court Theatre in London about the wives of striking miners: “We went to interview some women, but we also got up at 4am and went to the picket line. I was terrified. The task was very Heavy: Police horses, riot shields. It stayed with me, that sense of physical danger and how I started walking quickly to find the bus and get out of there.”

“I look forward to all these letters of complaint”…James Graham breaks some golden rules with Sherwood. Photo: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Manville found this sinister memory of the atmosphere useful for the role, as did meeting some of the women in Nottinghamshire: “The dialect coach brought them together for me to listen to voices, but they were funny when they talked about their lives For her, the key to Sherwood is the long-standing rift: “My character lives next door to her sister and wants to meet her and love her, but can’t, because their husbands are on different sides of the strike. “

Graham was familiar with reconstructing political events he could not remember. His breakthrough stage play in 2012, the house, before the 1979 vote to overthrow the Labour-Liberty coalition and sparked Thatcherism, a thrilling portrayal of the whipping and stretchering of seriously ill MPs in Parliament. And, while Labour and still a voter, Graham has a reputation for respecting both parties.There are decent Conservatives in this house, and his Brexit: No Civil War Some people felt too kind to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dominic Cummings.

“I’m always trying to see the other side,” the author said. “I can’t believe this has nothing to do with growing up in Nottinghamshire and seeing decent people from both sides tearing each other apart. In our cultural understanding of miners strikes, when you think of Billy Elliot and brass close, understandably, the focus is on strikers and difficulties. But I think it’s important to look at this from the other side of Sherwood. “

Graham sees a connection to his Cummings play: “It bears a clear parallel to the division of families and friendship groups that Brexit has caused. In the miners’ strike and Brexit, people are suddenly forced to make Binary choice. Am I left with the rest of my life because I voted in a referendum that I fucking never asked for? I’m not going to vote, so I made a choice.”

It’s easy to imagine a James Graham The drama about the miners’ strike stars Morrissey as union leader Arthur Scargill and Manville as Thatcher. “Or why not the other way around?” Manville laughed. But, unlike most of Graham’s plays, Sherwood uses imaginary characters. “The fictional decision was made out of a duty to the community to know the real families involved,” he said. “My uncle lives on the street where a murder took place. And, unlike other real-life crime stories, where the characters of the participants are well known, this one isn’t like that. So there’s more creative freedom. I’m glad I didn’t let My friends and neighbors were directly involved in the drama.”

'There is a clear parallel'...Graham's Brexit: Not a Civil War.
‘There is a clear parallel’…Graham’s Brexit: Not a Civil War. Photo: Joss Barratt/Channel 4/PA

Does this reduce legal issues? Graham laughed. “Yes. When you send a script to a lawyer, there is usually a traffic light system – a green tick for you to say, an amber tick for a little worried, and a red tick for yourself. I shouldn’t have said that, But when it’s covered in red, I’m really happy. You’re like, ‘There’s something going on here.’ inkhis 2017 stage play about Rupert Murdoch, “Almost All Red!”

For Sherwood, Morrissey met with the original investigator, but stressed that DCS Ian St. Clair was “not him, but a fictional character”. As there are currently more cops on TV than Scotland Yard canteens, the actor admits: “Your heart sinks a bit when your agent tells you the character is a cop. But despite Ian being a cop , and a good police officer, but the show is really about his place in the community.”

While investigators are usually outsiders, this cop is an insider, like Kate Winslet in East Town Mare (Sherwood compared to that). “When he went for an interview,” Morrissey said, “he didn’t just walk into a house like he always did, but a house he might have known. The glue of the community and its history influenced his bond with the character. relation.”

Reluctant to write police procedures, Graham deliberately broke some rules: “Our decision to tell the audience who the killer was at the end of the first episode created quite an existential crisis at the BBC because that’s not what you should be doing. Yes. But it feels pleasant and surprising to break that.”

The script also challenges Manville to play someone who is in the throes of extreme shock and grief for over 90 percent of the show: “The segment you see at the beginning of Jolie, the norm, is very short. She quickly Broken down. Because of that, I wanted to start with as many daily chores as possible—playing with the grandchildren, etc.—so the audience would be invested in her before the crisis hits.”

Thatcherism is just that...this house at the Garrick Theatre in London in 2016.
Thatcherism is just that…this house at the Garrick Theatre in London in 2016. Photo: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Viewers will also hear something rare on TV: two characters talking to each other. While standard in dramas, counterpoint dialogue is discouraged on TV as it can cause problems with subtitles and editing, and bring in letters of complaint. Manville nodded. “Yes. It’s a recording thing too. One way to keep up with the rhythm in the theater is to start talking before the other person stops. But the sound engineer hates it and prefers to have a gap. But we’ve done that.” Grae Mu said one of his favorite moments was with Manville and Claire Rushbrook, as her sister spoke at the same time at the door: “I’m looking forward to all these letters of complaint.”

TV’s thirst for long content means few episodes are one-offs these days, but presumably Sherwood won’t be affected by a sequel, say, someone running down the local Falklands or a victim of the Gulf War? “I always thought it was a one-off,” Graham said. “But there have been discussions about the possibility of developing other stories within this community, so I just don’t know.”

Maybe detectives and widows can get married? “Yeah — then move to the Bahamas,” Morrissey said.

“Hey!” Graham warned. “They live in Nottingham. It’s a great privilege to bring my family community to the screen.”