On Tuesday 15th of June, almost a year since after Humans preview, I indulged in another mad dash to London to see the episode one preview of The Living and the Dead at the BFI. The reason I spent a combined eight hours on six trains in a twenty-four hour period – Colin Morgan of course.
Directed by Alice Troughton who I believe has a fantastic eye for the artistic aspect of film and written by Ashley Pharoah who wrote the incredible Life on Mars plus the amazing Colin Morgan (Nathan Appleby) and Charlotte Spencer (Charlotte Appleby), The Living and The Dead certainly had the oomph and it showed.
The cinematography is sumptuous, beautifully coloured, and rich. It reminded me of sunshine, long summer days and carefree times, but… there’s a darkness lurking at the edges, crows cawing, and a single black cloud which makes one uneasy. The opening scene was simple but beautifully shot and set up the depth of the relationship between Nathan and his young wife.
After the strange death of Nathan’s mother, the highflying socialites inherit her run-down farm. Their sense of duty is powerful enough to make them take on the responsibility of the land and their workers livelihoods with no prior knowledge of farming. There’s a lot to learn but they’re both intelligent and energetic and all seems idyllic. That is until Harriet, the young daughter of the local vicar, starts to hear voices and the young couples nirvana quickly becomes filled with fear and confusion.
The Living and the Dead is creepy, disturbing, and weird. There’s creaking floorboards, shadows moving, flickering lights with no source, movement in the corner of your eye, darkness, blood, and two, possibly three, occurrences, which I cannot spoil but just didn’t fit with Victorian England. I am terrible with anything deemed as horror and fully expected to have my eyes shut most of the time, but even though there is some ‘horror’, it is more implied and in the imagination of the viewer. I’m pleased to say that my eyes remained open. However, after saying that Ashley insisted that the drama is more fantasy than horror and after seeing episode one there is definitely fantasy elements.
A Q&A with Charlotte, Colin, Ashley, Alice, and Katie McAleese (Exec Producer) followed the preview. Members of the audience asked a few questions about the acting skills involved and how the actors prepared for their roles – Charlotte said that she listened to music that she thought summed up her character. They ended up with a The Living and the Dead playlist. I, for one, would like to get hold of that.
Colin was asked about his character choices citing that Leo in Humans was far removed from Nathan. He said that he was drawn to disturbed and complicated characters and that drew him to Nathan. Think Jake in The Laughing King, Leo in Humans, Calum in Island and Cathal in Parked.
Colin and Charlotte rehearsed together for two weeks before production to fine tune their chemistry. Charlotte said you can’t just turn up on set and say, Hi, I’m your wife and then get on with the kissing and bedroom scenes, they needed time to get to know each other. Alice Troughton replied that Colin and Charlotte got on very well in ‘real life’ and when they did a chemistry test at the casting stage, she said there was an immediate chemistry between them. I’m sure at this point I heard a few sighs from the audience.
Talking about a sighs, there was a definite low rumble of voices when Nathan walked the corridors of his creepy house topless. It seems our Mr Morgan has been working out. Very pleasing.
Alice Troughton said that the title sequence for The Living and the Dead is taken from some old footage of a moth’s irresistible attraction to a flame. She akined Nathan and Charlotte’s lives to this analogy.
I am mindful of spoilers, as I personally dislike them so I will conclude by saying that this is probably not one to watch with your Nan, or children, or anyone of a nervous disposition!
In the second row, sat next to Alice, was Katie McGrath – Morgana in Merlin. She was spotted and mobbed, or should I say, shown a lot of love. Apparently, she had a cold and that morning was feeling under the weather, the autograph and selfie requests brightened her day. I was, and am, far too English to move from my seat and request such things.
It was a pleasure to see Colin Morgan ‘in the flesh’ once more; his live appearances are few and far between. To me he always looks as if he wants to be anywhere else apart from in front of so many roaming and probing eyes.
My photos, taken on my three-year-old mobile, are terrible at best. The one below is the better of a bad bunch. I love the looming still of Nathan hanging above them.
Another satisfying mad trip to London was topped off by the sheer amount of familiar faces in the audience. All members of the splendid and loyal Merlin family and it was great to chat to many including Sabrina (Cuddle) who I sat next to. I had dinner with the very lovely Julie Bozza and drinks afterwards with some of the Merlin Meet Up gang.