I'm so excited to be able to post a link to Channel 4's new television series, Any Human Heart, an adaptation of the bestselling novel by William Boyd. The novel is published by Penguin (naturally!) and you can order it here. And the new television version of it has one of my favourite people, Emerald Fennell, amongst its glitteringly delightful cast. Very exciting.
Emerald and I first met at Oxford just before Christmas of 2006, when I was directing my second student play there (glamorous, I know) and she auditioned on the second day of auditions, as one of 83 girls competing for the three main roles in my favourite play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams.
We got to speak properly for the first time at the call-backs, when I accidentally scheduled the next auditionee an hour after Emerald's audition was due to end. So, she kept me company and we chatted for a while, during which time a beautiful friendship was born. I was very relieved that, at last, someone agreed with me that my fear of flying was more than justified. It's not how often it happens, but how bad it will be when it happens. (Even worse if the plane nose dives, then rights itself, and you're the person who wet yourself mid-plummet and have to live with that shame for the rest of the flight.) Or unbuckled some aged granny next to you and tried to use her as a human shield, then have to explain to her why you did that when the plane doesn't actually crash... Food for thought.
Perhaps some of my favourite memories of our time in Oxford include us, bedraggled and exhausted sitting, without shame, with various 18th century costumes and props slung over our arms as we waited for a post-rehearsal supper table to open up at the Chiang Mai restaurant. Good times. Less endearingly, on my part, there was an incident during a rehearsal for Dangerous Liaisons in a music room at Worcester College, when I - very tired and stressed with the dress-rehearsal approaching - was interrupted by someone banging away on a defunct drum kit behind me. For some reason, I assumed it was my friend Johnny Rhodes, so I spun round in high fury and snapped, "Johnny, for f***'s sake! What are you doing?" Only to discover that it was Emerald on said drums; at which point, my demeanour changed entirely and I beamed, "Oh, it's you, Emmy. Well done!" I may even have applauded her slightly. Johnny meanwhile, from the far corner of the room, glowered with seething fury from behind his butler's outfit, as Emerald gave me an encore performance.
Anyway, Any Human Heart is a fantastic book with a wonderful cast for the adaptation, which was written by William Boyd. A great idea, I think. It will be broadcast later this year by Channel 4 over four weeks. So do look out for it! Amongst the cast are Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, Pirates of the Caribbean 4's Sam Claflin, Pride and Prejudice's Matthew McFayden, Hayley Atwell, Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall, Tom Hollander as Edward VIII, Gillian Anderson as Wallis Simpson and The West Wing's Richard Schiff.
I'm obviously hugely excited about this, especially since it seems absolutely no time at all since I was directing Emerald in a student production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Dangerous Liaisons. And giving her the first ever three chapters of Popular which I had written, to see if she thought they were any good. I'm obviously pretty grateful for the feedback I received right after she had finished reading them. She was also the first ever person to read aloud the role of Imogen, when I wanted to hear how everything sounded. Massively enjoyable day.
Drummer Johnny, on the other hand, failed to read them at all and got away with saying, "Yeah, yeah, I loved the party in Chapter ...." And inserted any number he could think of. A clever strategy which worked until he accidentally hit upon the one chapter in the book sans party.
It's incredibly exciting that Any Human Heart is finished and I can't wait to see it.
The trailer for Any Human Heart can be watched here.