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Gay Times September 12 - Issue 410

Julia Davis’ latest black comedy Hunderby

It's set around 1830 and sees her finally fulfill her fantasy of a funny period drama, bonnets and all. GT got to snoop around on set, spoke to the principle actors and had a nice cappuccino with the creative mother of Nighty Night herself.

Hunderby is a fictional English village that only the creative (if slightly warped) mind of Julia Davis could come up with. In the brand new Sky Atlantic series, the beachside English idyll is disturbed – even further – by a shipwrecked maiden, washed up on its beach. As Helene (played by Alexandra Roach) comes to, the handsome all round Mr Darcy figure Doctor Foggerty (Rufus Jones) arrives to rescue her. Though in a typically awkward exchange, his heroic efforts are thwarted by the bereaved pastor Edmund (Alex MacQueen) and with a pitiful amount of wooing, the pair are soon wed, the man of the cloth assuming young Helene’s virginal innocence. All this exposition is necessary as we chat to the cast on their lunch break, in full costume, jarring somewhat with the fish and chips and boozy trifle.
Where Julia Davis fits in to all this, other than it being her pet project and having written most of it, is playing the part of an enigmatic and in her words “creepy” housekeeper, Dorothy. “I suppose my character is a little like Mrs Danvers in Rebecca,” Julia tells us mid-mouthful. Of course, the chances of this role being a cutesy, chin-up what-ho Downton Abbey character are slim-to-none. Her creepiness manifests itself in malicious, violent acts that won’t become apparent until the end of the series. Though we soon realise how untouchable Edmund’s first wife Arabelle is, Dorothy makes it her mission to cruelly highlight just how inadequate a washed up replacement Helene is. It’s familiar ground for fans of Nighty Night as the flabbergasted victim and ruthless perpetrator are played out with excruciating villainy, both thrilling and painful to watch.
Being on set is a strange experience. People are all lace and bonnets, wearing detailed, beautiful period outfits, but with incongruous anachronistic details; a pair of rubber wellies, or an iPhone poking out of a waistcoat. We managed to catch a bit of filming and see Rebekah Staton playing the role of maid Annie, delivering a ferocious deadpan face while holding two cherry topped pastries to her chest and saying a line about “nice buns”. Her face is a picture of frozen professionalism, until the director calls “cut” and the cast burst out laughing. In the very same kitchen, Julia Davis is using (and abusing) an elderly gentleman as a stepladder to reach a high shelf – and on imminent discovery, drags him to hide behind a counter. We hear his over dramatic comic asthmatic wheezing, and again on that magic director’s “cut!” the cast are in hysterics. It gave our stomach muscles a work out just watching it.
Back in the canteen, the key cast converge and Alex McQueen introduces himself and one of the central characters; “So I play Pastor Edmund who is the master of Hunderby Hall. Then Rufus is my love interest.”
Which he is not. Rufus Jones quickly corrects; “Love rival. Love interest for an afternoon.” We’ll get to the same sex loving in a bit.

To read the full article, pick up the latest copy of GT out in all good retailers, online and downloadable on your iPhone or iPad.

Words: Bob Henderson

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