The soap EastEnders must recalibrate its outdated depiction of Cockney life to take account of the young hipsters and tech entrepreneurs who have made East London a fashionable place to live, the BBC has admitted.
The soap’s new executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins told the Radio Times that EastEnders had to reflect the economic changes that had taken place in the quarter since the programme was first broadcast in 1985.
“It should feel more like London. It’s been frozen in aspic for too long,” he said.
Mr Treadwell-Collins said he wanted to see visual references to the trendy neighbourhood of Shoreditch, a once deprived district on the edge of the City of London that has been transformed in the past two decades as a home to artists and later tech start up companies.
With terraced houses on Fassett Square - the area of Hackney which was used as the original inspiration for Albert Square - now fetching as much as £700,000, nattily-attired hipsters are likely to creep into shot or be written into storylines.
“Sharon [played by Letitia Dean] said recently that she’s looking to be a landlady,” noted Treadwell-Collins. “As a result you’ll see the edges of Shoreditch creeping into EastEnders. It's got to reflect the modern world.”
The BBC1 soap is undergoing a revamp, including the recruitment of hard man actor Danny Dyer to play Mick Carter, landlord of the Queen Vic, as part of an attempt to reinvigorate the drama following a ratings slump.
The BBC recently unveiled plans to build a new Albert Square, which will replicate the original but also be 20 per cent bigger to allow the long-running soap to open up new locations for filming.
Treadwell-Collins, who took over as executive producer in August last year following the departure of Lorraine Newman, said he wanted to see the soap focus less on action and more on character. In the past 12 months, ITV rival Coronation Street has featured an inferno at the Rovers Return while Emmerdale, also on ITV, had a siege at the Woolpack pub.
Treadwell-Collins said: “EastEnders has got to shake up the audience. We don't want to do cover versions of greatest hits. EastEnders has to sing new songs, otherwise it doesn’t feel fresh. And it also has to be about people and feelings and emotions. I've never been a fan of blowing things up.”
Treadwell-Collins said he was happy to see the return of familiar faces, including Lacey Turner who plays Stacey Branning, as well as new characters.
“It's good to have one foot in the past while looking to the future,” he said.
“There should be more secrets that will make the viewer gasp. You want those moments where the audience is thinking, ‘Oh my God, I didn't know that was going to happen.’ That used to be what the show did brilliantly and what I really want it to do again.”
He said that he had been a “proper die-hard EastEnders fan” even before he began working on the soap. “I remember poring over the map of Albert Square that Radio Times published when the first episode aired,” he said. “I liked EastEnders because it felt dangerous, real and naughty, and also that it was saying something about life.”