Amongst the top tips for television this year is Mackenzie Crook’s Woracken Gummidge: Saucy Nancy with Scottish actress Shirley Henderson who starred alongside a stellar cast Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Blessed (trapped in a tiny Scarecrow Bodies), while returning to Crook as Worzel, Steve Pemberton and Rosie Cavaliero as Braithwaites, India Brown as Susan, and Thierry Wickens as John.
Following on from last year’s popular 5-star adaptation, Crook has developed a Christmas cracker for a new hour-long adventure that will be released on March 24th. on BBC1 to see families on prime time.
Henderson plays the title role of Saucy Nancy, a carved wooden figurehead with a bad mouth and frustrated who was spotted by Worzel, Susan and John languishing in a scrapyard in Scatterbrook. Naughty Nancy longs to go back to the sea and find her ship so they can get her there and travel to the coast on foot, by bus, wheelbarrow, motorcycle and sidecar. But will Nancy’s ship wait?
« I’m excited and grateful to be doing a new episode of Worzel Gummidge for everyone after a difficult year, » says Crook, who adapted one of Barbara Euphan Todd’s original books.
After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, the show’s moorland and coastal surroundings will match the television audience longing to make it outdoors.
« We’re leaving Scatterbrook for this story, on a day trip to the ocean, some fresh air and some open space, » says Crook.
Filming was delayed due to Covid and as a result the cast worked on wild moors and coastlines in heavy rain and cool conditions.
« We had terrible weather, days of pouring rain, but we got away with it and everything looks beautiful on the screen, » says Crook.
Meanwhile, Vanessa Redgrave says that she and Henderson “almost died of the cold” on the “amazingly beautiful” coastline: “In the face of these adversities, I think we were both brilliant!”
« It was the first time I worked with Shirley. That was a real treat, « she says. « I had heard about their wonderful work from many people in my family. ”
Rosie Cavaliero, who plays Braithwaite, also praises Henderson, saying, “Shirley and I worked together on a Mike Leigh film, Topsy-Turvy, many years ago. So it was nice to see her again. She is amazing and what a great choice for the role. She has this doll-like quality that is exceptional and she is an incredible singer so these scenes will be a real treat for everyone. ”
Henderson’s Saucy Nancy is an old friend of Worzel’s, but Crook was happy to diverge from the book to take the story on an adventure, and who doesn’t long for a day at the seaside?
« It’s a really simple road trip story, » he says. « Worzel and Saucy Nancy obviously can’t be seen by other people, so it’s about the calamities and adventures that happen to them when they try to make the trip. It’s a change of scene and a day from Scatterbrook Farm. ”
Thanks to Crook, music plays a huge role in Worzel, just as it does in his Detectorists, and this time there are sea shanties from The Unthanks, the folk band from northeast England, who appear in scenes at the end of the film and also wrote a song for Redgrave and Henderson to sing.
Saucy Nancy is a salty old seal and has a colorful twist. That’s why Crook invented nonsensical swear words that Henderson is supposed to enjoy and make his young audiences giggle.
« I had a great time making a list of rude things to put on a cow in the final episode, » he says. « Saucy Nancy is this die-hard sailor this time around, so it’s supposed to sound like swear words, but not quite right, » he says.
« What I realized about Worzel was that his whole life has been pretending to be human and sometimes he gets it right and sometimes he does it wrong, and it’s the same as Saucy Nancy. She pretends to be human. She tries to use bad language, but she hasn’t quite got it right. ”
Family-friendly, a population that doesn’t need an introduction to Henderson who played Moaning Myrtle (the ghost of 14-year-old Myrtle Warren) in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and again in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: an achievement that What’s even more impressive is that she was 37 years old when she first played the school girl and 40 years in follow-up.
Henderson has always been eclectic in the numerous roles she has played in the three decades since she left Kincardine in Fife for London to train at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama at age 17, adding to any character that she inhabits, a sensitivity and depth that attracts attention.
After graduating, she worked in theater and television. In 1995 she starred in the BBC’s comedy drama Hamish Macbeth. Her big films include Trainspotting in 1996, Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy in 1999, Wilbur Goes to Suicide in 2002, and Filth with James McAvoy and Eddie Marsan in 2013. She won praise for her portrayal of a woman with Parkinson’s in the 2017 film Never Steady, Never Still, and has more recently played Lucille Hardy with Steve Coogan and John C Reilly in Stan and Ollie. On television, she was again nominated with Marsan for a BAFTA for Channel 4’s 2013 crime miniseries Southcliffe, starred in the BBC drama Happy Valley in 2016 and was most recently seen in this year’s Scottish BAFTA-nominated BBC drama The Nest. With song and dance also in her repertoire, she won the 2018 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Elizabeth in the original production of Girl from the North Country, and she’s no stranger to comedy, from Hamish Macbeth to Bridget Jones to Bob Servant, making them a natural choice for Crook’s fun family hype.
The main reason was Mackenzie. I worked with him many years ago [2013 film In Secret, an adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel] and he was absolutely beautiful. So it was a combination of working with him and seeing what was on his head and the lovely script: it’s a delightful story and a really fun character.
Saucy Nancy is a figurehead of a ship that was dumped in a junkyard and forgotten years ago. It is gathering dust under all the old furniture and is miserable. Then she hears this voice that she recognizes and it’s Worzel. They drank friends when they were younger. You embark on this great adventure and she leaves the junkyard.
She speaks in her own way: She is very expressive. I suppose it’s a shocking language for Worzel, he finds it absolutely terrible and cursing, but at the same time he enjoys it.
There’s no real curse word in the whole thing, nothing that you would recognize as dirty, but there is a sense of something naughty about the words.
She has a good reputation for it. That’s the way it is. Worzel is concerned that the kids will be shocked, but I think it’s over their heads. It is very funny.
It feels like it was once pretty, but now it’s well worn. It has a stiffness and cannot move properly. She pulls around with her hands.
The costume is partially prosthetic. It was tough because of Covid, we couldn’t sit in chairs for too long so I flew to London and had some fixtures. The team worked as fast as they could while I was there and after I left they spent longer adjusting the prosthesis to the dimensions of my body. Then that day we had to find out quite a bit about it and how she would move in those prostheses. It was very difficult to carry. That day it took a long time to fit because you have to work with a person with a visor on their face. All doors had to be wide open for Covid so that it was four in the morning and absolutely freezing!
He’s nice, very gentle. He does the same thing as you: while directing, he also acts in a way that he trusts you to do your job. He is very reserved and pleasant to work with. You’re not being yelled at: it’s an ensemble piece and you’re all in it together. It was absolutely delightful.
The children were simple and comfortable and relaxed and inventive and wanted to do the best they could. We got into a nice rhythm together. They ran around chasing and playing games between scenes which was very nice.
And Vanessa was exceptional. I had an evening with her on the beach and I will never forget it. I couldn’t believe it was her sitting right next to me! There was that voice and that face right there. It was wonderful to watch their process.
We had to sing together, but we had no practice or rehearsal because of Covid so we were both not sure what we were doing. We just had to find it. It was vulnerable, but she was exceptional and I’m thrilled to have spent a day of my life with her.
The film is a love letter to the landscape and the coast: Are you a fan of nature?
It is a place you run to. You grow up and go to the beach to vacation in your own country. We used to go north to the empty beaches of Scotland so it’s very important to me: the breeze, the wind, the smells.
The weather was absolutely wild when we filmed: heavy rain for a minute, then sunny. But I grew up with it all. I know it. It really brought me back and I loved it. There was something magical about the ferocity and I think it’s going to look amazing on camera.
We also spent a lot of time in the country filming. We are very fortunate as actors to see places that we normally wouldn’t necessarily come across.
It feels like an uplifting thing to just enjoy and not be stressed out. If we have nothing else to do at Christmas and can’t go out, we may just need to sit down and be taken on a trip. I hope that during these strange times, people will smile and be comfortable in life for a while.
Set sail with Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy on Christmas Eve, and if this seaside adventure doesn’t warm your heart, you’re just a spandy-legged tossle head. .
Mackenzie Crook, Worzel Gummidge, Barbara Windsor and Saucy Nancy
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