‘It’s every Shakespeare play you’ve ever seen in 30 minutes’: Steve Pemberton, author and star of BBC2’s Inside No 9 is describing Zanzibar, the opening episode of the fourth series.
- Read on for reasons including whether Inside No 9 will be appearing in a theatre near you soon
It’s written predominantly in the iambic pentameter style the Bard is best known for and to our eyes and ears is the funniest thing to ever appear in the dark anthology series.
It takes place in a hotel corridor and involves the mishaps – and mistaken identities – that occur involving twins, a hypnotist, an elderly woman with an unreliable memory, a suicidal man, a woman unhappy in love, a hitman and a prostitute.
Double Olivier Award-winning actress Marcia Warren (Vicious, Absolutely Fabulous) joins us in the audience for this Q&A and screening of the opening two episodes in this six-strong series.
‘How much do I get for a poo?’ is arguably the episode’s funniest line not least because it is delivered by Warren, whose comic timing is still unquestionably sharp. The episode’s star is Rory Kinnear, currently headlining in Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre just half a mile or so east from our BFI venue.
It’s directed by David Kerr whose work we admired on Russell T Davies’ reimagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he is on the Q&A panel with Pemberton and fellow star/author Reece Shearsmith as well as series producer Adam Tandy.
Second episode Once Removed is described as ‘Memento meets Midsomer Murders‘. Starring W1A‘s Monica Dolan, it is told backwards in segments which shift 10 minutes into the past on each occasion.
Shearsmith is asked about the similarity between the conceit and BBC1 drama Rellik: ‘We filmed ours first,’ he says. ‘And happily Rellik was shit!’ Later he clarifies that he’d not actually seen the show.
Both Pemberton and Shearsmith say they feel they’ve another series of Inside No 9 in them and that they are aware of the pitfalls of repeating themselves.
An audience member asks whether they have ever thought of staging Inside No 9 episodes in the theatre.
Shearsmith says: ‘Some of them would be suited to do that. Some are even in real time. We have a lot of requests from people asking us for the rights to stage scripts but we’ve never allowed it.’
Stars to appear in the remaining four episodes of the series include Nicola Walker, Zoe Wanamaker and Noel Clarke.
Producer Tandy observes that the casts were generally bigger per episode in this series but Shearsmith and Pemberton point out that one episode revolves around just the two of them.
Says Pemberton: ‘The pair of us play an old double act who hate each other now.’
Before this series of Inside No 9 appears on BBC2 in January 2018, the pair will return in The League Of Gentlemen for three episodes. We’ll be reporting from a BFI Q&A with the pair and co-writer Mark Gatiss in December.
There were 50 characters featured in the first series and there are 35 or so here.
Shearsmith says of the filming: ‘It nearly killed us. It’s a young man’s game! We shot three 30-minute episodes over 18 days.’