Everything you need to know about the BBC drama Ridley Road which airs tonight
The latest BBC drama on Sunday night is the captivating Ridley Road, which draws its inspiration from real events. Georgia Humphreys meets some of her stellar actors.
It’s the Swinging Sixties in London’s East End, and far-right fascism is on the rise.
Enter Vivien Epstein, a young Jewish hairdresser from Manchester who finds herself embroiled in an anti-racism infiltration movement, after following her lover, Jack Morris, to the capital.
This sets the stage for a new four-part BBC thriller called Ridley Road, written by Sarah Solemani and based on the book of the same name by British author Jo Bloom.
It’s a lively, romantic and inspiring series, which is the first TV role of rising star Aggi O’Casey (she plays Vivien) and also stars Rory Kinnear, Eddie Marsan, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Tamzin Outhwaite and Tom Varey.
What makes it more poignant is the way it draws inspiration from real events; Jack (played by Varey) is a member of Group 62 – a coalition of Jewish men that formed in 1962, largely in response to the National Socialist Movement, which was created by Colin Jordan (played by Kinnear in Ridley Road).
Here, O’Casey, Marsan, and Oberman tell us more about the characters and topical themes explored in the drama.
Ridley Road was O’Casey’s first audition after graduating from Lir Academy in Dublin, and she admits she found the script “really encouraging.”
It also seems relevant, as we live in a time when we are once again witnessing the rise of fascism. “It’s just as alive, just renamed – and just as ignored,” suggests O’Casey.
“We see Vivien making decisions about how to take control and care for her community and those she loves,” she says.
“It’s a very important story right now because people feel really helpless and don’t know how to go about doing the things they believe in and there is so much fear. Vivien is scared all the time, but she fights for it.
Londoner Marsan, 53, plays taxi driver Soly, the frontman of Group 62. Discussing his pre-film research, the actor – best known for crime drama Ray Donovan – says he’s watched documentaries and read books. But he also already had a historical understanding of his childhood.
“I grew up with men like Soly; tough, Jewish, working class men, ”he notes. “This is a very important story to tell, due to the rise of anti-Semitism both on the left and on the right, and I think young people need to know what anti-Semitism is.
“It’s very insidious, and I know it’s a weird word, but it’s almost ‘flirtatious’ racism. It is sold as egalitarianism. People can give you the impression that you are trying to create an equal world.
He adds, “I grew up in Tower Hamlets, the most multiracial neighborhood in the country. I am not religious in any way – the only values I can pass on to my children are the values of celebrating diversity that I was fortunate enough to be raised with. And so, it’s very personal for me to do something like that.
Soly’s wife Nancy is Oberman, 55. Growing up in a Jewish family in Stanmore, north London, the former EastEnders and Friday Night Dinner star could also draw inspiration from her own experiences for the role.
She says Nancy reminds her of her great-grandmothers and great-aunts in the East End “who came out of the immigrant boat with nothing and whose determination, courage, tenacity, love of fashion have left them behind. helped get through this “.
She remembers: “One of my great-grandmothers was called Sarah Portugal; she lived in the East End, she smoked a pipe, but she wore a bar of red lipstick no matter what.
“These women were very fashion conscious, and I like to think Nancy had a bit of it too. She worked in a fabric store and she married a man like Soly; he is his right hand and I love their relationship, equality. He’s the muscles, and she’s her hands behind her back and her brain.
Over the past four years, Oberman has resisted what she sees as a “huge rise in anti-Semitism on social media.”
And she hopes Ridley Road will remind people of the anti-Jewish hatred in British history, which has “been forgotten in the annals of time.”
“When people talk about the Jews as if they are all rich and in control, they have to remember that the Jewish socialist background came from the East End, from these working class boys as Eddie represents, as Nancy represents,” she explains.
These working class people, she says, arrived as immigrants around 1905, fleeing the pogroms. “They came to Britain thinking it was a beacon and a haven of tolerance, but were treated like complete strangers; “No Blacks, No Jews, No Dogs” was on the list of all boarding houses and inns.
“The Jews have always been thirsty. And we very conveniently forgot that little piece of history that Ridley Road is going to tell so well, and that fascism lurks beneath the surface, and the Jews had to take care of themselves because the authorities weren’t helping them. .
“I hope there won’t be a reaction on Twitter because it tells the real story.”
Ridley Road begins on BBC One on Sunday October 3.