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The Go-Between: Move over Poldark, it's skinny-dipping Ted

Scandal, sex and naked swimming ... the Beeb's film The Go-Between, which is being shown on Sunday, has everything you could hope for in a costume drama. The cast and crew tell Jeananne Craig what to expect.

Published 18/09/2015

Romantic tale: The Go-Between’s Trimingham (Stephen Campbell Moore), Marian (Joanna Vanderham) and Ted Burgess (Ben Batt)
Romantic tale: The Go-Between’s Trimingham (Stephen Campbell Moore), Marian (Joanna Vanderham) and Ted Burgess (Ben Batt)
Ted and Marian get up close and personal

Jim Broadbent is one of the big-name draws in upcoming costume drama The Go-Between, but his part in a previous adaptation was a less high-profile affair.The Oscar-winning actor's first film role was an uncredited extra in the 1971 version of the British romantic drama, which also starred Julie Christie and Michael Redgrave.

But in BBC One's new version, 66-year-old Broadbent plays a more central role - as the elderly Leo Colston, who begins piecing together his boyhood memories after discovering his old diary from 1900.

In a flashback, the drama relays when 13-year-old Leo, played by newcomer Jack Hollington, would spend the summer holidays at a friend's Norfolk country house. Captivated by the well-to-do Marian Maudsley (depicted in her youth by The Paradise actress Joanna Vanderham and in later years by Vanessa Redgrave), he acts as a go-between, ferrying messages between her and the farmer Ted Burgess (Shameless star Ben Batt), with whom she's enjoying a forbidden romance.

We sit down with the cast and crew of the beautifully shot 90-minute film, to find out what viewers can expect from this new adaptation.

A WRITER'S DREAM

"I'm not so much a fan of the book as a groupie really," says writer and executive producer Adrian Hodges, of the 1953 novel written by LP Hartley.

"I first read the book at university, and then I sort of ripped it off tremendously for my first film The Bridge (1992), so it's a book that's stayed with me for years. When the opportunity came to adapt it. It's a dream come true for a writer."

YOUNG TALENT

"I think about 300 or 400 kids were seen in all (for the role of Young Leo), but once we'd met Jack, it was clear it was him, even though we made him jump through a few more hoops at the end, just because we like to be cruel," says director Pete Travis. "There's something really special about what he's done. You can't take your eyes off him." Co-star Lesley Manville, who plays Marian's mother Mrs Maudsley, adds of the rising star: "Because he is genuinely a very instinctive and attentive and bright young man, it wasn't about saying, 'Right, now this is how you do this ...'

"He was just absorbing things, because he was there in the moment.

"He wasn't one of these young people you've got to make pay attention or listen, he's absolutely intuitive with it."

THE NEW MR TURNER

Fresh from actor Aidan Turner's topless scything in the recent Poldark series, The Go-Between features a Mr Darcy-esque nude swimming scene, when handsome Ted decides to take a dip. Director Travis insists this wasn't just gratuitous, but in keeping with the time.

"A man wouldn't have been wearing a swimming costume in that period, especially if he was working class," he says. "There's something about the contrast that I like, between a man that was free and a girl (Marian) that was trapped, that's part of the reason, too."

FEELING THE FURY

When Mrs Maudsley discovers the affair, and that Leo has been acting as a go-between for the pair, she is furious.

Her shock manifests itself physically, with Leo bearing the brunt of her anger with a few well-aimed slaps and clips around the ear.

"Every time we did a take, even though I knew what she was going to do, it still managed to shock me how real it felt," young actor Hollington confesses. "Leo was someone who had never really been out in the world at all, it was possibly the first time he had stayed away home, other than when he was at school, so he was very innocent and wanted to experience everything and understand everything that he could."

DIFFERENT TIMES

Manville has sympathy for her character, who she describes as "a victim of her class and her time".

"For them, the class and code of practice was everything, so for a daughter to not be marrying the right person, and then to shockingly be seen with the gardener, is something that's so unthinkable in that time," she adds. "You could make a blanket description of Mrs Maudsley and say she's this kind of monster, but for the line to continue and the family name to continue, it's imperative her daughter makes a good match."

BOYS WILL BE BOYS

The subject matter may have been heavy-going, but when the cameras were not rolling, Vanderham enjoyed spending time on set with Hollington and the young actor who plays her on-screen brother.

"I think they're absolutely fantastic," says the Scotland-born star.

"They constantly came out with things you wouldn't expect them to have had an opinion on. They had me in stitches, and we were constantly playing games on set, so it's given me a real insight into 13-year-old boys.

"I'm not sure I need it, but I've got it now."

  • The Go-Between, Sunday BBC1, 9pm

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