Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

BBC film classic Charles Dickens update in Northern Ireland

Nicholas Nickleby is closely associated with the streets of Yorkshire and London — but the Charles Dickens classic has found a new home in Northern Ireland.

Or temporarily at least as the BBC’s drama department films a modern-day take on the 1839 novel at various locations across Northern Ireland.

‘Nick Nickleby’ is currently being shot amidst the grandeur of Brownlow House in Lurgan, boasting a cast and crew of Northern Ireland’s film industry finest.

Among the local names joining the cast are Adrian Dunbar, Bronagh Gallagher, Jayne Wisener and Andrew Simpson.

Production, supported by Northern Ireland Screen, began recently with Belfast City Hall and Brownlow House among the first backdrops to be used.

The adaptation will be a five-part serial written by Joy Wilkinson to be aired as part of the autumn daytime schedule.

Anne Brogan, executive producer from the double BAFTA-winning Kindle Entertainment, explained how the production came to our shores.

“We have a relationship with Northern Ireland Screen,” she said.

“When we filmed the pre-school show Big and Small, they were immensely supportive and put funding into the production. We really enjoyed working with the crew from Northern Ireland and when the opportunity to come back and work here arose, we grabbed it with both hands.

“We have a fantastic Northern Irish cast as well as a terrific crew — most of the key parts have been filmed by people from the region.”

Ms Brogan said the landscape and architecture added to the attraction of filming here.

“With old Victorian buildings, modern places, the countryside and grand houses — it offers great production opportunities”.

“The only thing you haven’t got here is the weather,” she joked.

Ms Brogan praised Northern Ireland Screen, claiming they were “pro-active in making the process straightforward for the BBC”.

“Bringing this production to Northern Ireland helps to grow local talent,” she added.

In the original Dickens novel, Smike is a young boy sent to a home and suffers abuse. In the modern take, Smike becomes Mrs Smike, an elderly lady who suffers abuse in a nursing home.

Producer Sue Breen, who is originally from Northern Ireland, said: “Unfortunately in the last few years, we have read about the abuse of the elderly in homes.

“It is an interesting one for BBC daytime. It can’t be too shocking but we don’t shy away from the serious issue.”

Ms Breen went on to add that the production would have its lighter moments too.

“It is also a fantastic comedy with larger than life characters.”

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