Heads Up: Dancing On The Edge

Racism, royalty, and all that jazz … take it away Stephen!

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A new BBC drama five-part series, set in the early 1930s, following a black jazz band as they achieve fame and even royal patronage on the society party circuit. Until, that is, a suspected murder becomes the subject of an investigation by a music journalist .…

Elevator pitch Racism, royalty, music, murder – and all that jazz.

Prime movers It's written by Stephen Poliakoff – The Lost Prince; Shooting the Past – and is, rather astonishingly, his first ever serial for the Beeb. He is also directing, with help from co-director Philippa Lowthorpe.

The stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children Of Men; The Shadow Line), Matthew Goode (Watchmen) and Janet Montgomery (Entourage), as well as best-of-British thesps, such as Anthony "Giles-from-Buffy" Head, Caroline Quentin and Jane Asher.

The Early Buzz The Daily Mail seems primarily interested in the period costumes: "It's enough to make you want to revisit the 1930s .… Oozing glamour and sophistication, the girls of BBC2 drama Dancing On The Edge have been out in force, donning a variety of gorgeous frocks from the era." The Evening Standard wrote: "A new drama based on the true story of a black British jazz band in Thirties London reveals a little-known side of English society …. Dancing On The Edge by award-winning writer Stephen Poliakoff was inspired by the discovery that black musicians were championed by royalty led by the Prince of Wales — later King Edward VIII — despite the rising tide of racism and fascism in the period."

Insider knowledge There have already been rumours that this might simply be the first series of an on-going drama, continuing with the story of the 1930s music newspaper which forms one strand of the plot.

It's great that … it features period costumes, murder and intrigue, investigative journalism, sexy night club scenes … sounds like anyone who will be in mourning for the finishing of The Hour may find solace in the arrival of Dancing on the Edge.

It's a shame that … Poliakoff's last 1930s period piece – Glorious 39 – was a rather muddled affair, not well received by the critics. Let's hope this surpasses it.

Hit potential Poliakoff's one-off dramas are often billed as TV "events", and the BBC is sure to push this. Whether it can maintain momentum over five episodes remains to be seen.

The details Dancing on the Edge is on BBC2 in January.