Connect with us


Dark Money: The TV drama that became topical by accident



Still from Dark Money

Image caption

Babou Ceesay plays Manny, the father of a boy who is abused by a Hollywood producer

Two years ago, screenwriter Levi David Addai had an idea for a new fictional TV drama. But within months, the storyline suddenly felt much more realistic.

BBC One’s Dark Money tells the story of sexual abuse in Hollywood, and the efforts to cover it up.

When 13-year-old Isaac Mensah is plucked from his regular life at school in London to star in a major new movie, his family is delighted. But while he is in the US shooting the film, a powerful studio executive takes advantage of him.

The producer then attempts to buy the young boy’s silence, offering his family £3m if they sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) promising to keep quiet. The rest of the series explores the impact of the decision they make.

Of course, in the time it’s taken to bring the series to the screen, several real-life allegations have been made against high-profile figures, and the widespread use of NDAs has been the subject of debate.

Image caption

A 13-year-old London schoolboy, Isaac Mensah, is chosen for a Hollywood film role

In October 2017, producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual abuse by several women – allegations which he denies. The case sparked the #MeToo movement and it came to light that many women who had worked with him had signed NDAs.

Then, earlier this year, a documentary about the late Michael Jackson called Leaving Neverland alleged sexual harassment of two underage boys by the singer.

But, explains Addai, Dark Money was in progress before either the recent Weinstein or Jackson allegations hit the headlines.

“I began developing the idea and writing the script before those stories actually became mainstream,” he says. “So I was in this weird position where I was doing this thing that was totally original, as it were, and as it was getting closer to getting green lit, the news just exploded.

“And people were like, ‘Wow, have you heard?’ But for me personally, I was like, ‘I know these things are going on, this is not big news for me’. But I was fortunate enough that the BBC allowed me to continue telling my story.”

What are non-disclosure agreements?

Image copyright
Getty Images

Sometimes known as “gagging orders” or “hush agreements”, NDAs typically prevent staff and ex-staff making information public.

Many companies get employees to sign them as a matter of course, as they can apply to commercially sensitive details such as inventions and ideas, or anything likely to damage an organisation’s reputation.

NDAs have also been used to prevent employees discussing in the media allegations of misbehaviour in the workplace after a settlement has been agreed.

They’re signed when employees and organisations resolve a dispute – such as a claim of wrongful dismissal – without going through a full tribunal hearing.

While the news headlines around abuse and non-disclosure agreements could easily have been a source of research for Addai, he says he decided instead to stick to consulting child psychologists during development. What he found was that, if anything, his proposed storyline hardly scratched the surface of the world of abuse and NDAs.

“The production company were good at arranging meetings with Tavistock Children’s Services, speaking to child psychologists, who explained that this is nowhere near what’s been happening in our country right now,” he says. “To hear these guys lay out raw their kind of passion to really do something about it, they’re the real heroes really.

“And make it unique as well. Isaac’s story is Isaac’s story. There might be similarities [to news events], but I hope once people get to see the entirety of the series they can see there is hope there, that it’s not the end of your story, there is a way you can progress.”

Image caption

Manny and Sam (Jill Halfpenny) are seen grappling with their consciences

In the series, Jill Halfpenny plays Isaac’s mother Sam, who grapples with her own conscience over what they should do after the abuse takes place. Isaac’s own wish that nobody else finds out effectively encourages the parents towards signing the NDA.

“There’s a decision that Isaac makes which is he doesn’t want anyone to know [about the abuse],” Halfpenny explains. “Of course, as parents you want to feel like you’d do everything possible to protect your child, but in some ways it suits Sam and Manny that he doesn’t want anyone to know, because they can then just put it in a box, and see if they can survive doing it that way.”

Dark Money arrives hot on the heels of Bitter Wheat – a new David Mamet play which opened in London last month. Its plot was inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, making it the first West End play to tackle the subject.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a topic that just sort of fades away, nor particularly should it be,” the show’s star John Malkovich told BBC News at the time.

Image copyright

Image caption

John Malkovich in rehearsals for Bitter Wheat – which was inspired by the Weinstein scandal

For Addai, who has previously written Damilola: Our Loved Boy, the Bafta-winning dramatisation of the murder of Damilola Taylor, the biggest inspiration for Dark Money came from his own experience as a father.

“I enrolled my daughter in a drama school, for an hour and a half on a Saturday, which was great for me because I could catch up with work. It was interesting listening to the promises that’d be made by the drama school leaders.

“One of the big selling points would be a showcase in the West End or there being opportunities for auditions for soaps like EastEnders, and it was interesting watching the parents absorb that. And me being in this industry, I know that it’s not that straightforward. And I was just really interested to see how easily trusting the parents were to these people that they didn’t know, they just saw them as part of this arena of performing arts.”

Dark Money begins on BBC One on Monday 8 July at 21:00 BST.

Source link


Love Island: Tributes paid to Caroline Flack as winners are crowned




Caroline FlackImage copyright

Image caption

Caroline Flack was found dead at her London flat last weekend

Love Island paid tribute to Caroline Flack as its first winter series drew to a close on Sunday night.

The former host of the show was found dead in her London flat last weekend.

“The past week has been extremely difficult, coming to terms with the loss of our friend and colleague, Caroline,” presenter Laura Whitmore told viewers of the ITV2 programme.

“Caroline loved Love Island. She loved love, and that’s why tonight’s final is dedicated to her.”

She added: “We’re thinking of her family and everyone who knew her at this time.”

The programme then showed a montage of some of Flack’s memorable moments from the series in recent years.

The islanders were told about Flack’s death off-camera on Saturday, an ITV spokesman confirmed.

Finley Tapp and Paige Turley were crowned the winners of the series as the finale drew to a close.

Image copyright

Two episodes of this series were pulled from the schedules last weekend after Flack was found dead.

The show returned the following Monday with a tribute to Flack from the show’s narrator Iain Stirling.

This has been the first series of the show to take place in winter and be filmed in South Africa.

Previous seasons have been filmed on the Spanish island of Mallorca over the summer.

Overall, the winter series has been a ratings hit for ITV2, albeit not as successful as previous summer series.

This series has been attracting around three million viewers per episode, including via catch-up services, compared with the 4.5 million the last summer series generally attracted.

Laura Whitmore is the show’s current presenter. She joined the show after Flack was charged with assaulting her boyfriend.

Image copyright

Image caption

Laura Whitmore pictured at the Brit Awards last week

Tapp and Turley were crowned the winners of this series on Sunday night, winning the £50,000 prize, which they chose to share between them.

In a twist that occurs in every series, Turley was given the chance to “steal” the full prize money before she decided to split it evenly.

“It’s been such an amazing experience,” Turley said earlier in the episode. “It’s been filled with challenges, but it’s been amazing.”

Asked what first attracted him to Turley, Tapp said: “I loved how outgoing she was. I wasn’t wrong in picking her because I thought she’d make me laugh and smile all day long. She’s made me very happy.”

Earlier this series, they became the first pair to become an official couple in the villa.

Turley attracted headlines when the series launched in January because she is the ex-girlfriend of singer Lewis Capaldi.

The Scottish star referred to her while accepting the Brit Award for best single earlier this month, for his song Someone You Loved.

“A lot of people think this song is about my ex-girlfriend, who you can now see every night on Love Island,” he said.

“But it’s actually about my grandmother, who sadly passed away a few years ago. I hope ITV don’t contact her to be a on a reality dating show.”

During the finale, Whitmore confirmed the show would return to Mallorca for a new series this summer.

Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email

Source link

Continue Reading


Earth Harp: The man behind the unique instruments ‘epic’ sound




William Close is the inventor behind the Earth Harp – the world’s longest string instrument which uses architecture and landscapes to create a unique sound.

Mr Close, who has performed the giant harp all over the world, says the audiences are often left feeling like they are “inside the instrument” during his performances.

Source link

Continue Reading


Verdi opera: Conductor stops performance over ‘phone miscreants’




Carlo RizziImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi learnt to speak Welsh while serving as the music director of Welsh National Opera between 1992 and 2001

A conductor has twice stopped an opera in Cardiff after mobile phones rang in the audience.

Carlo Rizzi was conducting Welsh National Opera’s new production of Verdi’s Les Vêpres Sicilienes, at Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday night.

Audience members said Rizzi twice stopped and spoke to the audience about the distraction it caused.

Verdi’s opera is based around true events in Sicily in 1282.

‘Phone miscreants’

David Jackson, a BBC employee who was in the audience, said Rizzi was applauded after bemoaning the interruption caused by mobile phones.

He said: “I spoke to Carlo afterwards and congratulated him on the performance, but also on tackling the phone miscreants.

“He got a warm round of applause after he stopped and ticked off the audience member. Both incidents were right at the beginning of the show and all was well after that.”

Image copyright
Robin Drayton/Geograph

Image caption

Based at the Wales Millennium Centre, the Donald Gordon Theatre is named after its patron, a South African businessman

The opera is sung by WNO in French in its new production directed by Sir David Pountney.

Another audience member confirmed the two instances of disruption caused by mobile phones.

It is not the first time a mobile phone has drawn irritation during a high-profile live performance, with the devices falling foul of numerous artists in the past.

Pianist Krystian Zimerman stormed out of a concert in 2013 because a fan was filming with his phone.

And film and stage actors Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman and Benedict Cumberbatch have all voiced their anger at the use of mobiles while treading the boards in London.

Last year, singer Madonna said she would ban mobile phones from future gigs.

Jackson said his enjoyment of the opera in Cardiff was not affected by the interruptions.

“It was a wonderful performance of a comparatively rarely done piece of Verdi – the mobile phone business didn’t detract,” he said.

WNO confirmed there were “short pauses” and that Rizzi addressed the audience following the second interruption.

Source link

Continue Reading