Gaelic soap goes down darker road in bid for viewers

The cast of the drama set on the Isle of Skye, which has become the most popular show on BBC Alba

The cast of the drama set on the Isle of Skye, which has become the most popular show on BBC Alba

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The driving force behind Scotland’s Gaelic drama series has vowed to take it in a “darker” direction in a bid to get it onto the UK network and screened overseas.

Christopher Young, who has been making Bannan on the Isle of Skye, has revealed it is to head into “noir territory” in the hope of securing a spot on BBC2 or BBC4.

Bannan has gradually introduced a host of new characters since its initial three pilot episodes, which focused on the return of a young woman to the island after her sudden departure eight years previously. Young, best known for producing teenage comedy The Inbetweeners, said the Hebridean drama would develop a new edge to become more of a “thriller.”

He promised a dramatic twist at the end of the next series, which is due to be broadcast on BBC Alba in the autumn, would signal the show’s bold new direction.

Young believes that Bannan could be snapped up by broadcasters around the world if it was given prominent slots on one of the corporation’s main channels and showcased on the BBC iPlayer.

Young said: “When we set out to make Bannan, the challenge was to serve the core audience on BBC Alba.

“But it wouldn’t have been interesting for me to embark on if I didn’t also feel we could find an audience outwith the Gaelic-speaking community – and not just down south, but also in France or Brazil or anywhere else.

“One of the things I love about Bannan is that it’s not just about Gaelic-speaking people. You can easily identify with the characters if you don’t speak Gaelic.

“The show is as much about Scottish national life as it is about specifically living in the Highlands and Islands. It’s about ordinary people living ordinary lives today. For most people, that makes good TV.”

Bannan, which revolves around the village of Camus, has drawn on a host of little-known actors and islanders without any previous experience. It has become the most popular show on BBC Alba since it first aired in September 2014.

It was announced last month at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where three new episodes were premiered, that a fourth series would be going into production in the autumn.

Young added: “My ambition right from the beginning was to do something with a wide appeal, because that’s what makes it marketable.

Bannan is somewhere between a conventional soap and a conventional drama. We’re heading it in a direction which is more drama and therefore darker, because it is easier to sell, frankly.

“We have an incredible twist at the end of the next series which will allow us to head into kind of noir territory… we’re going to go into the realm of murder mystery. There was no way that we could produce overnight something of the incredible quality and high standard of a thriller. We’ve had to create an authentic, believable and well-made show on a very tight budget with a very shallow talent pool. We didn’t have the actors or technicians here. Bannan’s almost been like a live film school.”

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