Rapunzel is a German fairy tale, one that until a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t much awareness of. Sure, something about a fair young maiden in a tower letting her hair down to allow a prince to climb up to rescue her. But that was about it.
Thank goodness then for Wikipedia, and the comprehensive synopsis it provided. The original tale turns out to be not quite so straightforward as my sketchy memory, with a few more twists and turns, and a sting in the tale. Not every fairy tale resolves completely and neatly.
Tonight in a Belfast cinema I saw the BBC premiere of a new version of Rapunzel. It’s one of four hour-long stories - that I mentioned in a post last November - that are being given a contemporary retelling in the Fairy Tales series that hits BBC1 UK-wide over the next couple of months. All four tales were shot entirely in Northern Ireland over the summer.
Rapunzel is set in the ruthless world of tennis. Lee Ingleby (who you probably last saw in Life on Mars) takes on the role of Jimmy Stojkovic, a failing tennis player with a liability of a father (played by Eastender’s Shaun Williamson). Needing more success that he was likely to get on the men’s tour, Jimmy swaps over to play tennis as a woman, complete with a fetching wig.
But falling in love with the beautiful long-haired Billy Jane (marketed by her mother under the brand of Rapunzel, and played by actress Charity Wakefield) complicates the deceit.
Superbly written by Ed Roe, there was lots of laughter tonight as the tale of Rapunzel played out on the big screen. And given that taster, I'm definitely looking forward to the other tales - Billy Goat, Cinderella and The Emperor's New Clothes - hitting the small screen later this year. A great advert for Northern Ireland - both in terms of scenery and our ability to support the production of high-quality network drama.
Hopefully it'll be a Belfast launch with a happy ending that brings more drama productions across to these shores. Game, set and match.
Further update: The four-part anthology due to be aired in November/December will now be screened in the New Year.