INSIDE THE TUBE

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The Independent Culture
Is there a more prolific TV writer than Lucy Gannon (above)? The woman is a one-person industry. The creative force behind three of ITV's top-rating series - Soldier, Soldier, Peak Practice and Bramwell - she is also responsible for some of the best BBC single dramas of recent years - Tender Loving Care, featuring Dawn French as a homicidal nurse, Trip Trap, with Kevin Whately brilliantly cast against type as a wife-beater, and The Gift, shown earlier this year, in which Amanda Burton played a young mother suffering from cancer. She has now come up with another resonant film, Big Cat, in which Amanda Root (Persuasion) plays Alice, a lonely, boozy single thirtysomething from south London who is swept off her feet by a gentle giant called Leo (David Morrissey from Holding On and Our Mutual Friend). It soon emerges that he is not all he seems and their idyllic romance starts to crumble in the most spectacular fashion.

Gannon's inspiration for the story came when she moved to the capital two years ago. "I saw that the lives people lead in London are terribly isolated. Of course, people in the country aren't all jolly, rosy-cheeked and living on each other's doorsteps, but there is more consciousness of your neighbours. I started thinking about the fact that in the city you can be completely anonymous - you can come from nowhere, go nowhere, and nobody ever knows where you've been."

What makes her success the more impressive is that she was a nurse and care assistant for 20 years; she started writing only after entering a playwriting competition on a whim. Dubbed "the voice of the ordinary person", she says, "I don't cloak my work with Oxbridge intellectualism. I don't start with a reasoned argument; I start with characters and work my way from there."

Talking of hard-working people, Sue Johnston (below) is phenomenally busy at present. Having recently appeared in the sitcom about river policemen, Duck Patrol, and courtroom drama The Verdict, she now crops up opposite Jonathan Cake (Mosley), Adrian Dunbar (Melissa) and Susan Vidler (The Woman in White) in The Jump. On ITV on 6 September, this is a taut new four-part dramatisation of Martina Cole's thriller about a convict who protests his innocence and is sprung from jail.

A Roll of the Dice - The Story of The Capeman, a documentary for C4's Arthouse strand on 6 September, examines the short life of Paul Simon's (left) first theatrical production. Based on the true story of a 16-year-old Puerto Rican killer, Salvador Agron, who captured headlines in New York 40 years ago as the youngest person sentenced to death in the electric chair, The Capeman garnered vitriolic reviews. One critic described it as "the biggest flop in Broadway history". It folded after only 68 performances, guaranteeing itself an unwanted place in the record books.

JR

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