Acting students go to war in BBC’s Birdsong

Date 12.11.2015

BA Acting students from The University of Northampton’s School of the Arts will voice characters in a two-part BBC TV dramatisation of Sebastian Faulks’ First World War novel ‘Birdsong’, which premieres this Sunday [22 January].

Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn, Richard II) and Clemence Poesy (28 Days Later, Harry Potter) star as the passionate young lovers, Stephen and Isabelle, brought together by love and torn apart by the First World War, in the BBC One adaptation.

Working Title, the independent production company commissioned to make the drama, approached The University of Northampton last year for help because, although the story is about British soldiers, filming took place on the Continent and voices in many of the crowd scenes were not British.

Adapted by Bafta award-winning Abi Morgan (The Hour, Iron Lady), the drama spans the decade of the First World War, telling the story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who, in 1910, arrives in Amiens, Northern France, to stay with the Azaire family and falls desperately in love with Isabelle Azaire.

The Acting students were delighted to help and their work included improvising and creating the ‘soundscape’ in crowd scenes of young British soldiers throughout the programme.

Ian Wilkinson of Working Title commented: “A lot of the material we recorded at the University has been used and the director was very happy with the results. Over the two episodes you should be listening out for any scenes that involve the British soldiers.

“In Episode 1 it is primarily the scenes in the trenches, but in Episode 2 we have used far more for the soldiers milling around, street scenes in Amiens, The bar in Amiens, wounded soldiers, and the Battle of the Somme.”

Ashley Cook a Year 1 Acting student who worked on the production said: “The experience was fantastic because even though we are still training we have had the opportunity to work on something that is clearly a big production. It will look great on my CV!”

Chris Burdett, Senior Lecturer in acting added: “”We’re delighted to have been able to support Working Title and the BBC on this project. The opportunity to work with professionals from the industry is something we are continually achieving and this adds to the other professional experiences students gain on our degree.

Not only will it help the students increase their knowledge about the industry they are training to be part of, it will hopefully be something that will happen again as our relationship with companies like Working Title grows.”