Francesca Annis as Vivien and Stephen Rea as Mark in "Flesh and Blood". 
Picture: Supplied
Francesca Annis as Vivien and Stephen Rea as Mark in "Flesh and Blood". Picture: Supplied

'Flesh and Blood' finds love causing chaos for one close-knit family

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Apr 2, 2020

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The title pretty much sums up the story behind "Flesh and Blood", which is written and created by Sarah Williams. 

It’s a contemporary drama, exploring the dilemma of a widowed mother Vivien (Francesca Annis), who falls in love again. However, her new romance with Mark (Stephen Rea) doesn’t sit well with her adult kids: Helen (Claudie Blakley), Jake (Russell Tovey) and Natalie (Lydia Leonard).

On agreeing to the series, Annis said: “Reading the scripts, "Flesh and Blood" has the absolute classic opening to a thriller. Something bad has happened to one of the characters but you don’t know who it is. Then it cuts to this breezy, chatty family.

“Sarah Williams’ writing is wonderful because everything seems so ordinary but you wonder, ‘What is the story arc that leads to this end? And who is it within this group of people?’ It’s a real page turner. And it also made me laugh. Unexpected things kept coming up in the most ordinary situations. I haven’t done something like that for a long time.”

She continued: “Then I met up with the team - director Louise Hooper, producer Letitia Knight, Sarah Williams and everyone - a group of women who were fronting this show and we had a great time. Louise is completely empowering. She always wanted anyone’s suggestions and input. She wasn’t intimidated or nervous about that and would often take it on board. It was very collaborative. That made it an interesting project. It’s terrific.”

The cast of "Flesh and Blood", a new drama on ITV Choice. Picture: Supplied

Expanding on her character’s sway, she offered: ““Vivien is a very interesting, contemporary woman. She has been a career woman and is now heading for her 70th birthday. Having lost her husband Terry some 18 months before, Vivien is interested in looking for new ways to enjoy life. She’s happy to enter into a completely new phase in her life, taking on board whatever life may throw at her, which includes a new relationship with a man called Mark.

“What I liked about Vivien is that she’s not without criticism but you don’t feel she is judgmental. That’s one reason her children talk to her and confide in her. That’s a very good quality of hers.”

Helping offset the drama is Mary (Imelda Staunton), an elderly neighbour, who is like family.

“Vivien’s relationship with her next door neighbour Mary (Imelda Staunton) is very real. They were close, particularly from Mary’s side. Vivien had the family Mary didn’t have. We don’t know very much about Mary but things are gradually revealed. 

"Mary is quite dependent emotionally on this family who have grown up next door, while Vivien relied on her when she was working to take care of the children. Not all of the time, but she was always on hand to help out if needed. Mary is a very good neighbour.”

She continued: “I like Mary very much and really feel for her. It’s an interesting dynamic about people who are a bit needy. Vivien is self-sufficient and off about her business in the world.”

On working with Rea, she praised: “He’s someone who I’ve hugely admired and our paths have crossed many times, but we’ve never actually worked together until now. So that was fantastic. I’m an enormous fan of his. The casting is wonderful in this series. Lydia Leonard, who plays one of Vivien’s daughters Natalie, has played my daughter before, on stage at the National Theatre.”

With Vivien’s new romance not sitting well with her kids, there is a fair amount of friction in the family.

She pointed out: “Families are very tribal and deeply suspicious of any outsider who is coming into the family, somebody who is going to become part of the family. It’s deeply complicated all round.”

"Flesh and Blood" is a relatable and heartfelt drama with plenty of laughter and tears along the way.

"Flesh and Blood" airs on ITV Choice (DStv channel 123) on Monday, April 13 at 8pm.

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