Laurie Lee’s vivid childhood, Cider With Rosie, is the latest classic of English literature to be be dramatised in the BBC’s new season which has already included a Yorkshire-filmed version of JB Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls.
The latest one-off drama, directed by directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, tells the evocative coming-of-age story of Lol as he grows from boy to man and experiences his first love, loss and family upheaval.
Set in an idyllic Cotswold village during and immediately after the Great War, it’s a world as yet untouched by electricity and cars, but one where poverty and disease threaten society’s most vulnerable.
Samantha Morton plays Lol’s mother Annie, who works hard for the family and always puts her family first.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of the book and the character of Annie is someone I’ve always admired,” says the actress. “It was an opportunity to play someone that I identified with, both as a mother and someone who hasn’t always had things easy in life.”
The adaptation was filmed on location in Slad Valley where Lee grew up.
“It was amazing to be there as it is where it all took place,” adds Morton. “It would have been insane not to film there, but it wasn’t without difficulties. I was breastfeeding my six month-old baby and we couldn’t get a trailer near the set, so I was in a beautiful little hut at the bottom of the garden.
“The whole experience was a joy, but also hard work, because we didn’t have a huge amount of rehearsal time and it was shot very quickly. There were days when we needed 100 extras, but we only had four. Philippa made everything bearable. loved her sincerity, her dedication, her purity and her respect. To work with a talent like Philippa in amongst the world of film is very rare.”
While looking back to simpler times, Morton says the adaptation doesn’t slip into sentimentality.
“It’s nostalgic, in the sense that it is a time that has gone forever and it was captured so beautifully and perfectly by Lee that you don’t want the book to end. You want to be Laurie’s friend, you want to be Annie or Rosie, a part of that world. It’s a very special book and it’s hard for writers to encapsulate moments in time as Laurie did. It’s rare and special, and that’s why I think people love the book so much. “I hope the same is true of our version, although I haven’t seen it yet as I’m not not good at watching anything I do. However, when I went back to do some voiceovers, it looked incredibly beautiful and so moving. Very real. Not too ‘chocolate boxy’ but enough for it to delight the senses and recognise it’s a period film.”
Cider with Rosie, BBC1, Sunday, 8.30pm.