Producer Vicky Licorish (Goodbye, Mr. Steadman) has recently completed a labour of love in the shape of ‘Small Island’, a drama from Ruby Television in association with AL Films for BBC, which chronicles the intertwining lives and loves of Jamaicans and Londoners in the 1940s where English landlords’ signs reading ‘No Irish, No Coloureds, No Dogs' appeared to be the message of almost an entire country.
‘Small Island’ was filmed in Belfast and Jamaica during February / March 2009, with a few days also spent shooting in Dublin. The crew shot for six weeks in Belfast having transformed parts of the city into post war London.
The drama feature, which is expected to broadcast as two 90 minute pieces, is adapted from Andrea Levy’s novel of the same name, directed by John Alexander (The Shadow in the North) and adapted by Paula Milne (I Dreamed of Africa). Produced by Licorish alongside Joanna Anderson (Primeval) and Grainne Marmion (The Damned United), the drama’s co-producer is Abi Bach (Consuming Passion).
The cast of ‘Small Island’ includes Naomie Harris (Miami Vice), Davis Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland), Benedict Cumberbatch (Creation) and Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre).
Speaking to IFTN, Vicky explains her drive to produce the project: “From the minute I read ‘Small Island’ I knew that it was a very special book indeed – a wonderful portrait of a little known period of British history combined with a beautiful love story featuring characters with humanity and warmth.” The story resonated powerfully with Licorish as she is of Caribbean heritage.
With varied locations, shooting facilities and crew, the Northern Ireland shoot was a pleasure for the producer: “We were amazed at how fortunate we were in that we found pretty much all the locations we needed in Belfast. One of my favourite locations was a street at the back of the main shopping centre which we turned into an old-London street. It looked amazing in the fog, very atmospheric.
The only problem encountered was in recreating Georgian London houses as the red brick used in Belfast didn’t really suit the brief. Therefore, the crew moved shop to Dublin for three days to capture the look of elegant Georgian London. “It was tricky to find a street that would look like war-torn Georgian London,” says Vicky, “but then we found Great Queen Street in Dublin.” The interiors needed were created in Belfast’s studio the Paint Hall.
The producer continues her praise for the NI shoot by saying: “What was so brilliant about this project is that I have been passionate about it for years but everyone who joined us in Belfast brought their own enthusiasm and energy. They really went that extra mile for it. And I think that definitely shows on screen.”
The BBC is expected to broadcast ‘Small Island’ in December.
The director of photography on ‘Small Island’ was Tony Miller (Murphy’s Law). Executive producers are Alison Owen (The Men Who Stare at Goats), Paula Milne, Paul Trijbits (Fish Tank), Lucy Richer (Blood and Oil) for the BBC and Rebecca Eaton (Little Dorrit) for WGBH.
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