A gripping new drama about one the Great War’s untold stories was shown to an invited audience at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon on 27 March, in advance of the screening of the first episode on Sunday 6 April
Writer Sarah Phelps’s tells the story of life and death in a tented field hospital on the coast of France during World War I, where a team of doctors, nurses and women volunteers work together to heal the bodies and souls of men wounded in the trenches.
The hospital is a frontier: between the battlefield and home front, but also between the old rules, hierarchies, class distinctions and a new way of thinking.
In the first episode, Kitty Trevelyan tries to put the troubles of her past behind her as she joins two other girls, Flora Marshall and Rosalie Berwick, to volunteer at one of the busiest war hospitals in Northern France.
For the hospital workers, it’s a daily battle to patch the men up and keep the war machine churning. Staff numbers are low and the volunteers are desperately needed, yet there are some who see these women as more of a threat than a lifeline.
It’s not just the girls who are causing a stir. One particular patient is facing certain death but resisting it with all the strength he can muster. Alongside him lies the shell-shocked form of Lance Corporal Prentiss. He may be physically unmarked but this war has damaged him badly, and the staff are at a loss as to how to treat him.
As the three volunteer nurses settle into their first day, it soon becomes clear that no training could ever have prepared them for the reality of working near the Front Line. Before the day draws to an end, the hospital sees the arrival of Sister Joan Livesey, but it remains to be seen whether her modern approach will be welcomed…
The Crimson Field stars: Joan Livesey played by Suranne Jones, Kitty Trevelyan played by Oona Chaplin, Matron Grace Carter played by Hermione Norris, Flora Marshall played by Alice St. Clair, Rosalie Berwick played by Marianne Oldham, Sister Margaret Quayle played by Kerry Fox, Lieutenant-Colonel Roland Brett played by Kevin Doyle, Orderly Corporal Peter Foley played by Jack Gordon, Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne played by Alex Wyndham, Captain Thomas Gillan played by Richard Rankin, and Quartermaster Sergeant Reggie Soper played by Jeremy Swift.
The 6×60 series is a BBC Drama Production for BBC One, distributed by Endemol Worldwide Distribution.
Anne Pivcevic (The Lady Vanishes, Great Expectations) is the BBC executive producer, Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, EastEnders) is an executive producer, creator and writer, and Annie Tricklebank (The Lady Vanishes, Lark Rise To Candleford) is producer. David Evans (Downton Abbey, One Night), Richard Clark (Doctor Who, Life On Mars) and Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Silent Witness, Single-Handed) are the directors.
Charlton Park Estate, near Malmsbury, Wiltshire was chosen to replicate northern France. The series was commissioned for BBC One by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama and Danny Cohen, former Controller, BBC One, now Director of Television.
Listen to Sarah Phelps talking about the new drama on Radio 4s Woman’s Hour
Charlton House Park is also the home each year of the WOMAD Festival