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Stately Home's Star Role

EDP24 * 20/06/2002

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A stately home has a starring role as a royal residence in a major television drama to be screened next year.

Filming was under way at Somerleyton Hall, near Lowestoft, yesterday for the BBC 1 drama The Lost Prince starring Miranda Richardson and Michael Gambon.

Award-winning writer and director Stephen Poliakoff's production tells the little-known story of Edwardian royal, Prince John, the youngest child of George V and Queen Mary.

Diagnosed as an epileptic, and suffering from autistic-like learning difficulties, Prince John was unable to participate in public life and became increasingly isolated from his family, spending much of his life at the Sandringham royal estate in Norfolk.

Producer John Chapman searched for a suitable location to film the Sandringham scenes and was delighted to discover Somerleyton Hall.

"The magnificent hall and gardens at Somerleyton are ideal and play an important role in the production.

"The garden party scene, in particular, is extremely important and we are delighted to have the opportunity of filming at Somerleyton," he said.

The hall and gardens at Somerleyton are known for their beauty and attract thousands of visitors every year.

Estate administrator Ian Pollard said Lord Somerleyton was very pleased that the drama was being filmed there.

"It is a great credit to the staff, and in particular the gardeners, at Somerleyton Hall that it is being compared so favourably with the royal estate at Sandringham," he said.

The fine weather on Monday came as a great relief to Mr Chapman and the rest of the production crew as earlier attempts to shoot outdoor scenes had been prevented by almost continuous rainfall.

"The bad weather has left us behind schedule but with the sun shining today we hope to make up for lost time.

"One thing is for certain and that is the gardens here look absolutely lovely in the sunshine," he said.

Miranda Richardson plays Queen Mary who desperately tries to understand the needs of her youngest child, while Gina McKee is Prince John's devoted nanny.

Tom Hollander plays George V, whose blood ties to his cousins the Emperor of Germany and the Tsar of Russia, cannot prevent his country from entering such a bloody and calamitous conflict as the first world war.

Michael Gambon is Prince John's grandfather Edward VII with veteran Bergman film actress Bibi Andersson as his wife Queen Alexandra.

Other leading roles are played by John Sessions, Bill Nighy, Frank Finlay and Ron Cook.

More than 600 boys were auditioned for the part of Prince John before Matthew Thomas, who had a small role in the hit film Billy Elliot, was chosen.

Daniel Williams plays the same part at an earlier age with Rollo Weeks and Brock Everitt-Elwick starring as his ever-loving brother Prince George.

"Stephen Poliakoff has written for the first time about events inspired by a true story and like everything with him his research was meticulous and included time spent at the royal archives at Windsor," said Mr Chapman.

"From this he has created an extraordinarily poetic screen-play in his unique style which offers a fascinating insight about this traumatic period of history, much of which is virtually unknown."

The Lost Prince is to be shown as a two-part drama on BBC 1 early next year.

As well as Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk other scenes have been shot in North Norfolk and in London.

Writer Stephen Poliakoff has won many awards for his previous work including Shooting the Past, and Perfect Strangers.

At the recent Baftas, he received the prestigious Dennis Potter Award, with Michael Gambon winning the best actor title for his role as Raymond in Perfect Strangers.

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