‘Happy Valley’

‘Happy Valley’ wasn’t something my husband wanted to watch, he assumed, by the name, that it would be a programme like ‘Heartbeat’ – something, set in a quiet little place, easy to watch, comfortable stories.

To me, ‘Happy Valley’ reminded me of holidays in 1950s with my parents to Colwyn Bay, when we once visited the Happy Valley Theatre, which was outdoors and during the summer they held talent shows for children.  

The organisers invited children on stage to perform. This could be poems, songs, anything, and at any level of skill.

I wanted to go up and sing a little song, but when it came time for me to go up on stage, I couldn’t move from my mum’s side. Watching all of the other children up on stage, I sat with tears streaming down my face, because I wanted to sing, but was just too scared.

That feeling of ‘missing out’ stayed with me for years, which is weird, when, after leaving school I went to study at music college.

So, back to ‘Happy Valley’. I don’t know why I started to watch it, but I did. I had soon devoured the first series on catch up, completely hooked to the storyline, and brilliant acting. And it is anything but, a happy valley.

My husband often walked through the lounge when I was watching it, and would stop to see what was going on.  A week or so later, he said, he wanted to watch it. So, starting at series one again, I re-watched it, then we watched series two, and have now watched the latest series.

It is one of the best things I’ve seen in ages.  Sarah Lancashire’s acting is brilliant, as is that of the supporting cast. Now writing myself, I’m completely in awe of the writing for the show. The dialogue is witty, crisp and very clever. Any conversation between Sarah Lancashire’s character and her sister are captivating, for many different reasons. I love Catherine’s sharp ripostes – sometimes funny, very often sarcastic, but always relevant.

James Norton, playing Tommy Lee Royce is perfect – he makes such a good villain.  In fact, the whole cast is excellent.

What kept my interest throughout was the storyline and the excellent script, written by Sally Wainwright, who also produced the series. She gives her actors great lines to deliver, and you are completely drawn in to the relationships between the characters and the events that unfold in each episode. Add to the mix the beautiful landscapes in and around the Calder Valley, with the grittier backstreets, and you have the perfect setting.

Sally Wainwright says the title comes from the fact that the police call Calder Valley, Happy Valley, due to the drug problems in the area.

I often get ideas for the tone of dialogue when I’m watching tv series, if the scripts are well written. It’s not a matter of copying them, but sometimes, the overall feel of the conversation sets me thinking about something I’m writing, and can I improve it?

Something we found interesting is, the young actor who plays, Ryan, Catherine’s grandson, was only eight years old when he was in the first series. The main drama always revolves around Ryan. This is why the gap between the 2nd and 3rd series was seven years. Sally Wainwright wanted to wait for the character of Ryan to have his own agenda and be able to have a thoughtful response to his relationship with Tommy Lee Royce.

Rhys Connah, who plays Ryan was told that Sally was waiting for him to grow up, but didn’t know how long she was going to wait. He is now 16 and she wanted to give Rhys the chance to make his own mind up about playing the part again.

When he was younger he didn’t really have an idea what the show was about, he only went in and acted his scenes. He has now watched those early episodes, and realised how dark they were. But at the time of filming them, he was given a great experience, having a laugh when not on set. He was completely unaware of the dramatic nature of many of the scenes he was in.

In the 3rd series, Rhys had to come to terms in understanding the script, and figuring out why his character would want to do certain things.  Personally, he says he doesn’t agree with some of the decisions his character makes, but had to find a convincing way to play the scenes. As a viewer, having the same actor playing Ryan works very well.

The last episode was perfect. I didn’t want it to end, but of course, it had to. Sarah Lancashire was Catherine to the very end. Brilliant acting, with very real characters. I hope that both the actors and Sally Wainwright win many awards for this outstanding show.

We’re now going to watch ‘Last Tango in Halifax’, also by Sally Wainwright and starring Sarah Lancashire as they seem to be a great partnership, and because we missed that too!

Have you been watching it?