Last night I was lucky enough to go to the premier of Peaky Blinders in Birmingham. A drinks reception was followed by a speech from the show’s executive producer Caryn Mandabach, a screening of the first two episodes and concluded with a Q & A session with the show’s writer Steven Knight and director Otto Bathurst.
I’ve been really excited about Peaky Blinders for a while now; hailed as Birmingham’s answer to Boardwalk Empire, based on real life people in the city of Birmingham it’s been much-anticipated in our house where HBO drama is king and Brummies reside. Peaky Blinders were a real life gang from the Small Heath area of the city, and so although the story may not be 100% factual the characters existed as did the world they inhabited.
Caryn described the series as a love letter to our city when she addressed the packed out cinema, explaining that being from Chicago she is familiar with the mythologsing of personal histories, for example her city can lay claim to Al Capone; an icon of Chicago. It’s thought-provoking stuff when you consider that there’s hardly anything written about Birmingham’s gangland past let alone recorded in film, fictitious or not; yet this is a world that my great grandparents would both have lived through and there’s a weird sense of pride for me to feel a connection to the city’s story in that way.
During the Q&A after the screening Steven explained that both of his parents had stories; his Mum was a bookie’s runner when she was a little girl, his dad remembered carrying a message for his father to the Peaky Blinders when he was little too, (they were sitting around a table dressed immaculately, but drinking their beer from jam jars) all anecdotes that in part inspired him to write the screenplay.
Otto talked about how everything you see is designed to be larger than life, inspired by the idea of seeing this all through the eyes of a child, looking up to these big characters like kings. Pubs look bigger than they really would have been, horses are huge; scale plays a thoughtful part in the view you’re given of the world you find yourself in watching the show. The dialogue is littered with regal words like king and princess; used to describe members of the Shelby family (Peaky Blinders).
So, back to the point; I was looking forward to Peaky Blinders and it did not disappoint. The first two episodes are brilliant. The show is beautifully shot and with a cast headed up by the likes of Cillian Murphy and Sam Neil it’s not wanting in acting talent either.
The sets and costumes are amazing and just in case I hadn’t made it clear enough, this really is going to be the highlight of my TV week going forward. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was Helen McCrory’s accent, we don’t say “fraaaaaarnce” bab, we say “FrAnce”.
The show starts tonight on BBC2 at 9pm.