23 January 2011

Tom Hollander and James Wood visit Westcott House

As you may have picked up from facebook posts and Twitter activity (yes I'm now tweeting), Westcott House hosted a visit from the principal creators of the acclaimed BBC2 comedy, Rev.

Tom Hollander and James Wood had been to Westcott before to talk with some of the people here before writing the second series of the show, and they were persuaded to return to spend some time with the students. Last week, the appointed time came, and they packed out the Westcott lecture room as they told us about the evolution of the show, and took questions from a bunch of eager ordinands.

As the nominated techie in the House I was able to record the session, but I'm not yet sure about what we can do with the audio. If and when it goes public, I'll make sure I post a link to the page on this blog.

The session was really interesting. Both Hollander and Wood are sympathetic and knowledgeable when it comes to the church. It was clear from what they said that they didn't set out to create a particular kind of show with stereotyped caricatures (like Dibley or Fr. Ted). Instead, they sought to try to portray real characters, and to let the humour remain gentle and authentic. We were told that the majority of jokes came straight from the mouths of the many clerical consultants they spoke to, rather than the writing team.

One interesting aspect of the questions that came from the floor was that we seemed to be interested in their opinions about the church, and what we might do differently. I think this was on the basis that they are articulate and critical whilst being sympathetic to the church and its people. This line of questioning was interesting in itself, but their answers were interesting too. They spoke of the tension between preserving the mystery and beauty of the church's traditions and making the liturgy accessible to newcomers. It was a very intelligent discussion!

My question to the pair revealed my interest in film and media. I asked what other TV had inspired them in their creation of Rev. We had heard much about what they didn't want to do (Dibley, Fr. Ted etc), but we hadn't heard which influences did find their way into the show. The most interesting answer to my question (which caused a small pause and some head-scratching) was from James Wood. He cited an American show called Nurse Jackie, which I've never seen. I will now seek it out.

We also heard that the DVD of the first season will probably be available after the second season has aired. They didn't know why, but I suspect it's a marketing decision to ensure a bigger sales impact when they release it. Anyhow, you can buy it on iTunes if you're desperate to see it.

The main thing I took away from the session was an increased admiration for the team of creators. Whether you like the show or not, you have to appreciate the effort and skill they put in to researching the show. Like many others, I am looking forward to the next season, and to finding out what intelligence they have managed to glean from their visits to Westcott House.

Now I really need to do some work on my Greek before classes start tomorrow.


  1. Over the late release - Muppets!

    Rev is STILL being torrented... and yet we who have it on preorder have to wait another 6 months?!