BBC4 ventures into costume drama

8am: Highbrow digital channel BBC4 is to make its first venture into costume drama with an adaptation of a trilogy of novels set in London in the 30s. By Chris Tryhorn.

Highbrow digital channel BBC4 is to make its first venture into costume drama with an adaptation of 30s trilogy Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky.

The drama, which follows the frustrated love lives of four characters in the grime of London between the wars, has already begun filming and will be shown in three parts next year.

BBC4 has assembled a young cast for the drama, which is set in and around the Midnight Bell pub off the Euston Road.

Bryan Dick, who is currently appearing in BBC1 drama Blackpool, plays Bob, a barman who becomes infatuated with hard-up prostitute Jenny, played by Zoe Tapper.

Phil Davis plays Mr Eccles, an older man with a crush on Sally Hawkins' barmaid Ella, who is herself keen on Bob.

Up until now BBC4's original drama output has been restricted to a popular adaptation of The Alan Clark Diaries, which later transferred to BBC2, and one-off showings of TV adaptations of plays, such as Michael Frayn's Copenhagen.

BBC4 is better known for its documentaries, such as the Storyville strand, and arts and culture output, including Jonathan Miller's recent series on atheism.

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky was written by Patrick Hamilton, who was born in Sussex 100 years ago and died in 1962.

Executive producer Gareth Neame said Hamilton was an overlooked novelist, and described Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky - comprising the novels The Midnight Bell, The Siege of Pleasure and The Plains of Cement - as giving a unique insight into the author's "emotionally wrecked life".

All of the characters featured in the books, which are each told from a different perspective, suffer the pains of unrequited love and disappointed hopes.

Kevin Elyot, the author of award-winning play My Night with Reg and the recent ITV1 adaptation of Death on the Nile has penned the script.

Hamilton was best known for his novel Hangover Square, which features doomed lovers in grim, pre-war Earls Court, and the play Gaslight and Rope, which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.

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Chris Tryhorn

The GuardianTramp

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