Alnwick delivers fitting stage for postmen comedy

Alnwick is the setting for a new comedy, which could be turned into a television show.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 9:20 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 9:21 am
Filming at Alnwick's Lindisfarne Middle School, as part of the First Class pilot. Picture by Donald Bentley

Former Hollyoaks star Kris Deedigan, who grew up in the town, has co-written and directed First Class.

It is loosely based on his father Mike’s exploits as a postman in Alnwick and his comedy escapades with pal Lewis Murray, also from the town.

Filming took place in Alnwick over the Easter period for a non-broadcast pilot, which will be sent to industry contacts to gauge interest, with the aim of developing it and turning it into a television show.

Former Emmerdale actor James Baxter, who is in the BBC One series Still Open All Hours, and Ed Gaughan, from quirky British comedy Skeletons, are lead characters.

Kris, now living in London, said he was delighted to film and base the piece in Alnwick – the town which helped shape his acting career and a place which he holds in high regard.

Kris, 36, said: “This has been the most fulfilling experience of my professional life. Doing it in my home town was so special and showcasing Northumberland to the cast and crew, who came from far and wide, was fantastic.

“The comedy is very much set in Alnwick and there are references in it to places like Shilbottle.

“The sitcom is loosely based on my dad’s life as a postman in Alnwick in the 1980s, as well as him doing the comedy act with Lewis.

“They were known as Gordon and Bennett and they performed in pubs and clubs in the North East.”

The sitcom is a Deedigan family affair, with Mike helping to write it and Kris’ uncle Ed – of Wiltshire-based Kandu Arts for Sustainable Development – also writing and producing the piece.

Kris said: “This was actually Ed’s idea many years ago because my dad had fantastic stories about the postmen and he said, ‘this is a sitcom’.

“We had written a version some years ago and then the idea to make it happen came about towards the end of last year. My dad told some of his stories and we came up with jokes.”

Filming took place in Alnwick from Good Friday to Easter Sunday at locations such as Lindisfarne Middle School.

But it was shooting in the Penny Black which was particularly fitting, as the venue was the town’s former Post Office, where Kris’ father – who now lives in Eastbourne – had worked.

“It was poignant and serendipitous. Although in the pilot, we used The Penny Black as a club – because my dad and Lewis performed at clubs with their comedy act – instead of as a post office.

“Filming in Alnwick was like a whistle-stop tour of my life.”

Fittingly enough, retired postman Mike and Lewis make cameos. “They are both in it,” said Kris. “They absolutely love it, although I think it was a bit surreal too.”

Kris will now be editing the pilot in his own time, in between other projects, which includes shooting a film at The Lyric Hammersmith and working on pieces for his own company, Mylife Productions.

Thirty-four cast and crew descended on the town for the filming, as well as a host of extras from the town and Kris’ friends and family.

Kris has thanked everyone who was involved, including people from the various set locations for their hospitality and help.

He said: “Everyone was magic, thank you. The town came together and it went really well and we got some good footage.”