Landscapers: The series mixing real crime with “emotional psychodrama”


n June 2014, Susan and Christopher Edwards were convicted of murdering Susan’s parents, William and Patricia Wycherley, after shooting them at their home in Mansfield on the Bank Holiday weekend in May 1998, and then buried them in the garden.

A few days after the murder, they opened a joint bank account in the name of Susan and her mother. Succeeding in persuading distant relatives and the Department for Work and Pensions that the Wycherleys still lived by forging letters, they would end up collecting almost £ 300,000 in savings and benefits over the course of 15 years.

Much of that was spent buying memorabilia from Hollywood’s heyday: a signed photo of movie star Gary Cooper, a typed letter with the same actor’s signature, and a dinner card- dance autographed by Frank Sinatra. When the Edwards, who had fled to France in alarm when a letter from the DWP requested a meeting with William Wycherley to mark his 100th birthday, finally surrendered to British police at a Eurostar terminal after sending very polite, they only had one euro in cash. between them.

Olivia Colman and David Thewlis as Susan and Christopher Edwards

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It’s a weird, sad story, with enough surprisingly weird details (like the fact that Christopher had believed he corresponded with actor Gérard Depardieu through letters for years – it turns out that Susan had written the missives. and had stamped them with a special stamp) to make them a television commissioner’s dream, especially in our time hungry for real crimes. And yet, in a television climate saturated with stereotypical and identical procedural dramas, Sky Atlantic’s Landscapers is a definite anomaly. “There’s a reductive version of it – here are two people who spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on Hollywood memorabilia, they got embroiled in a double murder, you do the math,” said director Will Sharpe. “Likewise, we could have turned that in a different way and invited you as an audience to almost sympathize too much with the perpetrators and forget about the tragedy of the crime. I think we’re trying to do none of those things.

Although the series is based on the Edwards case and the ensuing police investigation, Sharpe and screenwriter Ed Sinclair oscillate between that reality and an increased fantasy and cinematic world, in which Susan (Olivia Colman, who is married to Sinclair ) and Christopher (David Thewlis) explore different versions of the truth, often more real to them than the cold facts of the outside world. It’s part police procedure, part black comedy, part love story. “Most couples have outside influences and groups of friends – they didn’t have that… it’s pretty amazing to have [so much] pay attention to each other, ”says Colman.

The real couple have always claimed their innocence, claiming that Patricia Wycherley killed her husband, then Susan shot her mother after provocation. For Sinclair, his first TV project is about “the stories we tell ourselves and the reasons we tell these stories”. He was “looking for an Olivia Colman project” when he first came across the story in a newspaper article. The trial, he notes, did not generate “massive” media coverage, “but there was quite a bit of interest around, and I think the interest was mainly due to its crazier aspects – the fact that no one had apparently missed [the victims] for 15 years, the collection of memories, the polite emails to the police, the relation of correspondent Gérard Depardieu… Those [are the] identify details of an actual story that make you think “what is this?” As a writer, [you] naturally enter a space where you start to speculate on how you might connect these dots. Why did these people end up where they were, both victims and guilty? “

The series imagines Susan (Colman) retreating to a fantasy world

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Sinclair then met up with Susan’s attorney, Darryl Ennis-Gayle, “who is this incredibly empathetic and compassionate man, as I think all legal aid attorneys probably are,” and his perspective comments, was going to work. He eventually exchanged letters with the couple, who are currently serving a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison, as well as viewed the trial transcript.

The central element of Colman’s character is, as Sharpe puts it, “his very traumatic story”. During the trial, Susan said she was abused by her father as a child and painted a hellish picture of her family life before her marriage, but this was declared inadmissible in court. While Sinclair was keen to avoid “lessening the seriousness of the crimes,” he notes that this detail has added “a vital undertone or a bit of gray in this otherwise black and white version of the story we have now.”

His cinematographic flights range from western escapades with Christopher as a cowboy hero to romantic interludes referring to his favorite French films. “Maybe it was as if some freedom had been taken away from her long before she was arrested for anything,” suggests Sharpe. “So maybe this fascination with the open plains of the Wild West was related to a yearning for some sort of fleeting sense of freedom. And also, I guess, there’s an exploration of how she may have felt somehow moved out of reality. There’s that fragmented sense of herself: she finds herself one minute in a very romanticized memory of a date with Chris, and the next minute in a terrifying interview with the police. And they’re all different versions of Susan. Sinclair agrees. “I think there’s always that feeling that she’s trying to figure out who she should be and who the people around her should be,” he says.

Scenes showing the early stages of the couple’s relationship are shot in black and white

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To bring these fantastic sequences to life, the filmmakers explored “what old Hollywood movies look like, cowboy movies, and how that might work.” [now]Sinclair says, experimenting with different lenses and aspect ratios. The Western elements were also a hit with the stars of the show. “On a very superficial level, nothing to do with the characters, I loved being a cow. -boy, “Colman laughs, while Thewlis notes,” We’re British, so you never imagined you’d be in a western. There’s actually a small town that you can’t find on Google Maps. , a western town that exists in Surrey, where we filmed.

Even the ostensibly realistic scenes in the series often take dizzying turns. Characters have a habit of breaking through the fourth wall to address the audience, the camera often opens to reveal that the set is on a soundstage, and even the authentic news footage that takes place during the credits is interspersed. shots of these sets being built and dismantled. . In the middle of the interrogation scene, Police Officer Emma Lancing (Kate O’Flynn) and Lawyer Douglas (Dipo Ola) find themselves drawn into the reconstruction of the crime by Susan, scrutinizing the edge of the set or ruler of ‘other characters to move. “It’s extremely ambitious… it’s something that no one else has really tried or dared to do,” says Ola.

Even the interrogation scenes in the series sometimes take a surreal twist

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The mechanics of storytelling are always at the forefront of our minds. “It’s a show that is so about the idea of ​​truth – it’s etched into the fabric of the show that we’re just storytellers, and we don’t have a truth agency either.” , Sharpe said. “It’s a dramatization, it’s a fictionalization, and so we’re showing you a version of it as well. “

Ethical considerations abound when bringing a story like this to the screen, and Sinclair admits that he “always [has] doubts and worries about it – I’m not 100 percent sure, and I never will be, that we made the right decision or that we did it as sensitively as possible… You are constantly checking with yourself, that you are representing it in the most balanced way possible. For Sharpe, Landscapers is “an empathetic treatment of history” that is “equally respectful” of the victims and those involved in the lawsuit. “It tries to understand the mess of all these different human relationships and events that led up to the time of the crime… we are just exploring the complexity of human relationships and invite you to draw your own conclusions about our fictional version of this story. “

Landscapers is on Sky Atlantic and NOW from December 7th

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