The BBC has revealed the cast for its forthcoming World War One drama The Ark written by Sarah Phelps. The cast will be headed by Game of Thrones and The Hour actress Oona Chaplin along with Scott and Bailey actress Suranne Jones [pictured left].
The six-part drama series is currently in production and will air on BBC One in 2014. The Ark is part of the BBC’s marking of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.
The drama centres around a field hospital near the frontline in France. Alongside Oona Chaplin and Suranne Jones in the drama will be Downton Abbey’s Kevin Doyle, Spook‘s Hermione Norris and Alex Wyndham.
BBC Press Release:
Oona Chaplin (The Hour, Quantum Of Solace), Hermione Norris (Spooks, Cold Feet), Suranne Jones (Scott And Bailey, The Secret Of Crickley Hall), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey, Scott And Bailey), Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave, An Angel At My Table) and Marianne Oldham (WPC 56) will star in compelling and emotional new drama, The Ark.
Written by Sarah Phelps, it is a BBC Drama Production for BBC One and will be distributed by Endemol Worldwide Distribution. Sarah Phelps, creator and lead writer, said: “I am bouncing off the walls with excitement at having such an extraordinary talented cast, bouncing off the walls.”
Marking 100 years since the start of the First World War, this gripping drama presents one of the Great War’s untold stories. In a tented field hospital on the coast of France, a team of doctors, nurses and women volunteers work together to heal the bodies and souls of men wounded in the trenches. The hospital is a frontier: between the battlefield and home front, but also between the old rules, hierarchies, class distinctions and a new way of thinking.
Kate Harwood, BBC Head of In-House Drama Production England, added: “This drama has been a work of love for writer Sarah Phelps and Executive Producer Anne Pivcevic and their team; often drawing on primary research they have re-created a vibrant and dramatic world where hope and freedom fight despair and suffering and a group of disparate people are thrown together in a refuge from the fields of war.”
When Kitty Trevelyan (Chaplin), Rosalie Berwick (Oldham) and Flora Marshall arrive as the hospital’s first volunteer nurses and struggle to be accepted by the established medical team. The girls are flung headlong into a world for which nothing and nobody could have prepared them. Kitty is escaping a traumatic past and her sharp tongue can both bewitch and antagonise those around her. For Rosalie, having failed to become a wife or mother this new opportunity means everything and Flora may look too young for the job but she’ll sure as hell make up for it with enthusiasm. However, it’s a new nurse Joan Livesey (Jones), disarming and spirited, who appears to be concealing the deepest darkest secret.
Oona Chaplin said: “‘The War To End All Wars’ – unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We keep fighting each other and committing horrific acts of violence. Although the technology of war may be different, the people have hardly changed, which Sarah Phelps has captured here so beautifully. In The Ark we follow men and women on their journey of survival, their struggle with meaning and love, and the small victories that mean so much. In this ensemble of colourful characters, Kitty is cut-throat, intelligent, tormented and wild. I can’t wait to start filming.”
Suranne Jones commented: “This is my first period drama and I am so excited at the prospect of filming a First World War series set on a frontline hospital. It’s an important period in history not just because of the war but because it was a transitional period for women, liberated in some respect but still shackled by the conventions and hierarchies of the past. Sarah Phelps really gets to the beating heart of a story and gives very strong images and weight to her characters. For my role as Joan she has created a nurse with a very independent and modern outlook who is much more interested in her patients than protocol. I am really looking forward to getting started and it will be great to work once again with director David Evans.”
These women become an integral part of the hospital staff led by the able partnership of Lt Col Brett (Doyle) and the formidable Matron Carter (Norris). They are assisted by enigmatic Sister Quayle (Fox) and two surgeons Captains Miles Hesketh-Thorne and Thomas Gillan. Miles and Thomas are about as different as two men could be. Miles, the latest in a long line of medics is fulfilling his destiny as an army surgeon. Thomas has thwarted his destiny – a working class boy who’s fought hard to become a brilliant doctor. In spite of their differences the two men have become close colleagues and firm friends but that friendship will be tested when they both fall for the same woman.
Hermione Norris said: “The emotional and psychological impact World War One had on a generation and beyond has always held a deep fascination for me. Sarah Phelps has crafted a compelling script with rich and complex characters who really explore the depth and impact of love and loss in this heroic, yet tragic period in British history. It’s a privilege to be involved in this BBC production 100 years on, bringing the drama of World War One into the hearts and minds of this generation. ‘Lest we forget.'”
Each episode sees the team care for new arrivals – the wounded or sick. The patients are a rich mix of British soldiers, troops from all over the world and even enemies from the other side of no man’s land. They also treat local civilians, those in need or people caught up in the fighting. These incoming stories bring a rich mixture of human life in all its dimensions. They are tender, heart-breaking, funny and surreal.
Above any enmities or rivalries, the characters share a bond. No-one else, not even closest family will ever comprehend this experience: the horror, the danger, the adrenalin, the joys and most of all the death-defying intoxication of simply being alive in the face of mortal danger. These characters embody an attitude of endurance, supreme courage and hope. They shoulder the burden and dance exuberantly on the edge of the grave, kissing the joy as it flies.
Hermione Norris (Spooks, Cold Feet) and Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey, Scott And Bailey) will play Grace Carter and Lt Col Roland Brett, the Matron and Chief Officer of a First World War hospital in France. Suranne Jones (Scott And Bailey, Coronation Street) will also star as Sister Joan Livesey alongside Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave, An Angel At My Table) as Sister Margaret Quayle.
They will be supported by Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan (William & Catherine: A Royal Romance), Marianne Oldham (WPC 56) as VAD Rosalie Berwick and Alice St Clair as Flora Marshall. Jack Gordon (Captain America: The First Avenger) will play Orderly Corporal Peter Foley), Alex Wyndham (Little Dorrit) as Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne, Jeremy Swift (Oliver Twist, Gosford Park) as Quartermaster Sergeant Reggie Soper and Richard Rankin (Black Watch) as Captain Thomas Gillan.
The 6×60 series is a BBC Drama Production for BBC One, distributed by Endemol Worldwide Distribution and due for transmission in 2014. Anne Pivcevic (The Lady Vanishes, Great Expectations) is the BBC executive producer, Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, EastEnders) is an executive producer and lead writer, and Annie Tricklebank (The Lady Vanishes, Lark Rise To Candleford) is producer and David Evans (Downton Abbey, One Night), Richard Clark (Doctor Who, Life On Mars) and Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Silent Witness, Single-Handed) are the directors.
Filming will commence in August 2013 and was commissioned for BBC One by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama and Danny Cohen, former Controller, BBC One now Director of Television.