I’ve been delaying writing this as I’d hoped to give you a transmission date for “The Diary of Anne Frank”, which I’ve adapted for BBC1 in five episodes. Trouble is, I still don’t know. I suspect it will be screened in October, or during the week of Holocaust Memorial Day in January. As I’ve mentioned before, it has been an extraordinary experience – both wonderful and upsetting – and has drawn out some truly marvellous performances from our actors. I just long for everyone to see it, particularly younger people who might be the same age as Anne, and who will be able to identify most strongly with Ellie Kendrick’s performance. (Other actors include Ian Glenn, Ron Cook, Tamsin Greig, Nicholas Farrell and Lesley Sharp). I’ve met some remarkable people during the past months in connection with this, most recently Eva Schloss, Anne’s step-sister, who happens to live just up the road from me in north London. Eva was a schoolfriend of Anne’s and her family, too, was all-but wiped out in the death camps. She and her mother survived, however, and her mother went on to marry Otto Frank, who brought up Eva as his own daughter. Eva adored him and has written two books about her experiences, and a play which has toured the world.
I’ve been writing various other screenplays. “Romeo v Juliet” is a romantic comedy, a movie set in Shakespeare’s time. Romeo and Juliet have faked their death, with the help of Friar Lawrence, and have been living in exile for five years. Their marriage is on the rocks, however, so they return to Verona to find the whole town gripped by Romeo-and-Juliet fever. Romeo gets his head turned by all the groupies and Juliet becomes an obsessed businesswoman; their marriage finally breaks up and it’s now the Montagues and Capulets who have to hold them together.
I’m also starting to adapt “A Little Princess”, the much-loved riches-to-rags classic, for the BBC. And I’m writing a film about Vera Lynn for ITV, for transmission next year, which will be the anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. Her autobiography is fascinating – not just about the war, and the rise to fame of this modest woman with the amazing voice, but also about the lost world of Tin Pan Alley. And I’ve written a short story to be transmitted on Radio 3 during the interval of the Last Night of the Proms. It has to be set in a park, so I’ve set it outside the Albert Hall, the morning after the Last Night, where a woman stumbles over the debris of a picnic and makes a startling discovery…
Apart from that I’ve been visiting prisons, doing book groups. We’ve been discussing my latest novel, “In The Dark”. My mother was banged up in prison some twenty years ago and I’ve been drawn to them ever since. We’ve had some great discussions in these groups, I’ve learnt an enormous amount, and it’s always painful to leave, the doors clanging shut behind the visitor, the keys turning in the locks. Always that echo.
As always, I’ve been helping to organize members’ events for English PEN, which take place at the Guardian Newsroom. Have a look at their site for forthcoming events, www.englishpen.org. there are all sorts of meetings lined up. I’ve also talked at various libraries and festivals. The most recent, the Screenwriters Festival in Cheltenham, was great because they’d set up “scriptbite sessions”. These were informal half-hours which ran alongside the main events: the various speakers each sat at a round table in the food tent where they answered questions and chatted with whoever wanted to join them. It was a terrific idea which could be adopted by other literary festivals – a chance to mingle and exchange thoughts. All too often writers do their event, sign some books and scarper.
No new news on the filming of “These Foolish Things” and “Tulip Fever”; hopefully they might go into production later this year. Meanwhile have a great summer and, as always, do email me if you fancy, firstname.lastname@example.org.