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The Changer (The Changer Trilogy)

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The town is busy preparing for the annual Town Meeting – a highlight of the year and even more pressing this year with the Eel Sisters announcing that this year’s Eel Festival will be led by an Eel Queen rather than the traditional Eel King – news that is dividing the town as much as the threat of developers building over parts of the forest. I see it as him being a big kid really and indulging in his ‘nerdisms’. So, he sees clothing as a sort of cool gauge – and in the gauge of authority and coolness, the cowboy is probably quite high up. He also considers himself to be a man of the land and a cowboy is the perfect example of that in a young man’s fantasy world. It ties into him being a DJ. When we were kids, we all played at being DJs and it was fine because it was in our bedrooms and wasn’t being played to the world. He’s a big fish in his pond because of his radio show, and through it, he provokes the men in the town to feel the same way he does. It’s a really beautiful device – him being a DJ and having this really small audience, it props him up to celebrity status in the village. Transitions are a part of life. Maybe it's a bit ambitious to expect a woman to be joyful, because change is very hard for people. But the festival is about embracing change. If you try and live in the moment with things, then hopefully transitions can be joyful. If you’re open and trusting, hopefully they can be.

Linda receives some unexpected and emotional information from Pig Man, and an explosive visit from her sister Siobhan, who’s furious about Linda’s decision to have time away from Steve and the kids. Long-supressed frustrations bubble up between the sisters, and Linda finds herself finally taking a stand against the domineering Siobhan. Harriett glanced down at them. “No, I suspect not,” she replied. “They aren’t native to this part of the world.”Where we filmed was so beautiful, really magical. Sometimes you’d turn up on set and the light through the trees was just stunning. Because so much of the show is about reconnecting to nature, we did that organically by being on that set. It reminds me a bit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where they all run off into the forest and find themselves. It really has got that very magical, heightened quality to it. I found it really inspiring. It’s the day of the annual Eel Festival – reclaimed this year by the Eel Sisters as a celebration of what it means to be a woman, with puberty, the menopause and rebirth at the centre of the festivities. It was difficult to focus on working with the other actors, because they were always egging me on to catch sausages in my mouth. This happened almost every hour. The moment is soon broken by the arrival of ‘Pig Man’ (as he’s known to his friends). A reclusive figure who lives a solitary, self-sufficient life in the forest with only the wild boar for company, Pig Man gave up a job in the city after a devastating life event and now lives a frugal life off-grid with frothy coffee being his only extravagance.

After a lifetime of domestic grunt work and feeling unseen by her family, among them slovenly husband Steve (Omi Djalili), the revelation prompts ride her old Triumph motorcycle down to the Forest of Dean and retrieve a time capsule from her childhood. As she explains to barfly Tony (Paul Whitehouse), "I’ve spent most of my life putting other people’s feelings before my own. I’m not going to do that for a bit, and it feels great." He’s your man out of time. To use a relatively modern frame, he’s untouched by the metropolitan elite. There are millions of people like that in the country. A lot of people, especially of a certain age, are set in their ways. You can’t be judgemental – well too judgemental – about people like Tony, who’s trying to grasp this kernel of change that’s happening around him. At heart, he’s quite decent. He thinks women should be protected. He’s not an overt misogynist, it comes from a misguided notion of old-fashioned chivalry, which is patronising but not dangerous. There is an awkward sexuality about him, which I’m afraid most males are afflicted with. He’s challenged by Linda when she turns up. It does make him reassess. He’s a fictional character, but he represents the potential for change. Actually, I think the question should be why generally people aren’t cast as their own age. Why do you get women in Hollywood playing mothers of actors that are one year older than them? I’m all for age-appropriate casting. It certainly made for us all having a pool of knowledge and experience and wisdom, dare I say, that was useful for what we were doing.First and foremost, I just want them to enjoy it and laugh. That’s why we watch things, to forget about how challenging it is right now across the board for everybody. Watch it and just laugh your tits off. Anytime I have seen things which mentioned menopausal symptoms, I've always been really grateful because I'm like, ‘Oh, I'm not going crazy, that is a thing.’ And it'd be great if everyone just knows now what perimenopause and menopause are, what the symptoms are and how they affect people. And it's nice that we do it with humour, as opposed to: you’re doomed! I love Monica Dolan, so to play her sister was just so fab. She’s just effortlessly good. My character starts off quite tough. If you come into the community, she's going to be really wary of you until you prove yourself and then as the story unfolds, you start to see more of a softer side to her. You start to see her celebrating in the Eel Festival, and really celebrating Linda as the Eel Queen. She’s so of the earth, she believes in nature and the power of nature. She’s also quite sardonic. There were really lovely juxtapositions in her, in terms of her humour and her cynicism. It was a great role. I loved how we looked too, with our caps, the whole look. Then when she goes to the Eel Festival, she’s wearing the sheela na gig and celebrating fertility. She does that with a fierceness, but I love the softer bits to her as well. She unfolded as the story went on. I hope so, because I’m not saying that all of these people are angels underneath, and this guy certainly isn’t, but he’s alone and doesn’t have any friends. That’s something that I really noticed. Everything that I do, my characters have always got close friends and it’s a comfort actually, because when you film it’s reflected in your day’s work – you play games between takes and get to know people. I felt like a bit of an island on this job. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, I loved working with Bridget and Al Campbell the director, and the cast and crew was super nice and the location was beautiful. It’s unusual for me to feel isolated as a character, but that just helped give me a greater understanding of this guy’s issues. I always try and think what that character’s priorities are. Her priorities are family and land, and the institution of the cafe, and it was all about keeping that going. I could see that she was very much involved with the earth and saw herself as part of that – not in charge of it as quite a lot of us think. The Change is a celebration of women, community and nature. And the arc of the female journey. It’s alright to say you’re not alright and things are difficult when you’re going through the menopause. The beauty of what Bridget’s written with the Eel Festival is that it goes into detail about puberty and menopause. Menopause has maybe been touched on in different TV programmes, but I don't think there's much detail of what actually happens. I love that there's a celebration of the grey bits of being a woman. It doesn’t sound preachy, it’s a celebration, it’s saying: this is what we all go through, and because we all go through it, we shouldn't feel isolated.

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