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Emma & Nick on TV

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Father Brown is a British television period drama which began airing on BBC One on 14 January 2013. It features Mark Williams as the eponymous crime-solving Roman Catholic priest. The series is loosely based on short stories by G. K. Chesterton of the same name. Staring; Mark Williams, Emer Kenny, Sorcha Cusack.

In early 2017 we were asked by Trudy Coleman, the series producer of BBC TV's Father Brown, if we would help in the production of an episode based around murder at a ballroom dance competition. Emma and I have competed many times up and down the country over the past few years and no murders have been brought to our attention - but you know how much we hate it when these things happen.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Rob Kinsman is a professional scriptwriter based in the UK. For the past few years he's been working on Father Brown including the award-winning episode The Man in the Shadows.

We were asked to look at a number of the aspects regarding the production whilst paying particular attention to the period in which Father Brown is set - 1950s rural England:
  • The dances that would have been seen in competition at the time.
  • Contemporary record and live music.
  • Recruitment of the dancers who would appear in the episode.
  • Training of the actors who would need to dance.
  • Choreography.
  • Virtually any other aspect of the show that concerned the dance and music.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
The episode begins with dance practice. A look of surprise from both Mrs McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack) and Lady Penelope "Bunty" Windermere (Emer Kenny). Has someone just come adrift at the gusset?

There was great deliberation regarding the actual dance moves that we should teach the actors as none had any ballroom dance experience. Other than Father Brown (Mark Williams) himself, many of the other principal characters needed to look as if they were seasoned and accomplished dancers. We gravitated towards teaching them continuous open natural turns and running finishes in order to give the look of fluid movement and rotation around the dance floor.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Alexander Walgrave (Jarrad Ellis-Thomas) and Bunty (Emer Kenny) were very easy and enjoyable to teach and both produced fabulous renditions of the dances for the cameras.

The music proved to be a thorny one. For reasons that I am not totally familiar with, we needed to find music for which the copyright had run out, or for which the BBC had acquired some performance rights. This proved to be a nightmare as most of the recordings that would have been used in the 1950s, such as those of Victor Silvester, were no-go areas! There was also the issue of music tempo, as this has changed over the years; both waltz and foxtrot have slowed down considerably since then.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Most of the dancers came from our circle of friends: Elena, Dave, Debs, Ian, Lynne, Collette, Steve, Emma and Nick. Lui and Tracey not pictured.

Most of the episode was filmed on location at Ditchley Park in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds during a blisteringly hot heat wave in June 2017. The costumes were authentic, dapper and hot.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Suave, sophisticated, a look of the debonair... Then there's Nick. Apparently, the syrup worn by Emma is made entirely of human hair and cost thousands of pounds.

The production was a classic example of everyone working together as a team. That meant we did everything Trudy said - and she made her thoughts known and no mistake. "There's just been a murder and the perpetrator is now threatening Lady Rose with her own sword, will you all please look a bit more surprised!"

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
The look of grave concern. Nick and Emma in the suspects line up. The accused Oliver Dewitt (Seb Carrington) is led away by Inspector Mallory (Jack Deam) with the long arm of the law provided by Sergeant Goodfellow (John Burton)

Sergeant Goodfellow (John Burton) was one of the principal actors who took the training opportunities that we offer very seriously and with great enthusiasm as his charactor was supposed to have a grave secret - a penchant for ballroom dancing! John was to appear in scenes that included waltz, foxtrot and tango - more dancing scenes than any of the other actors and like all the other actors the dances had to be learned from scratch. John's character had eventually to appear on screen as an accomplished competitor. We shared his obvious disappointment when tango, the dance which most people find challenging, but the dance he really got to grips with, was cut before even being filmed! Oh arse.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Spot to the murderer? Nick listens intently to Lady Rose (Diana Kent) informing us that despite the murder and the murderer still being at large, the dance competition will go on! I've been to a few of those.

The filming took several days; there was much waiting around. It was too hot for getting up to much mischief. The catering was great, nobody goes hungry on set, but the toilet trailer left a bit to be desired despite the Airwick - we will blame it on the heat. Luckily we were blessed with the use of the Ditchley washrooms complete with shoe-shine paraphernalia and Cherry Blossom.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Emma in the shade. Remembering all those lines requires a pensive look.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
The dance competition begins in the splendid surroundings of the Great Hall at Ditchley Park. Actually is wasn't so great with respect to its size, we all had a real challenge when it came to dancing. I have to congratulate all the dancers for formation flying that would have been the envy of the Red Arrows themselves.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Lady Rose (Diana Kent) striding purposefully within the dancing melee. What could be afoot?

There are two things that no doubt will stick in our minds for some time to come regarding the actual shoot - the constant costume and makeup checks and the now immortal words "Quiet, please, Turning". During the shoot, we could see the crew taking great pains to ensure continuity - if your collar was up for one scene, it needs to be up for the next. The 'command' Turning was interesting. The use of the continuous to imply an imperative amused us all week - we don't get out much. We now use it to insist upon silence at home.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
Rather a lot of time was spent between shoots; makeup, costume etc. Not sure what I said to Emma to elicit this smile!

In one of the final scenes when the murderer made themselves known, Lady Rose (Diana Kent) was pushed to the ground by the murderer. At that time, both Emma and I, playing our roles in superb style, were taking to Lady Rose. The murderer separates us and lunges towards Lady Rose, pushing her to the floor and grabbing her sword-concealing cane. This was our big moment, a moment of televisual history. Well, not quite for me. It was only my right buttock that make it to camera. Shades of the Antique Roadshow when it was only my crotch area in the refection of a Victorian dressing table mirror that made it to the screen.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
The crash mat upon which Lady Rose (Diana Kent) would be pushed. Right buttock at the ready - chocks away!

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
It's a dreadful thing - shocking! The murderer led away. Now, either Sergeant Goodfellow (John Burton) is brandishing Lady Rose's sword or he thinks he's about the conduct Pomp and Circumstance at the Last Night of the Proms.

Emma & Nick and Father Brown
An Oscar-winning performance from Emma. Not one, not two, but a triple-take. No finer performance has ever been seen on the Centre Court. Advantage, Emma!

Emma and I now await the flood of calls that will certainly come from casting agencies, film companies, television studios and the like. Our agent Berny Affpuddle at Matching Tie is braced ready for the storm!