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Banished | BBC-2 2015 | Russell Tovey, MyAnna Buring

At its heart, Banished is a story of survival. Though it is set in the stark historical reality of the founding of the penal colony in Australia in 1788 after the arrival of the First Fleet, it is not the story of Australia and how it came to be. Rather, it is a tale of love, faith, justice and morality played out on an epic scale in a confined community where the stakes are literally life and death.

“If you’re a woman and you have nothing except your body,” says writer Jimmy McGovern, “how far do you go to survive? If you’re a man and a stronger man is stealing your food and you are starving to death and nobody lifts a finger to help you because it’s every man for himself, what do you?”

Several years ago, McGovern developed a film about the plight of the first convicts in New South Wales. It was, says Sita Williams, McGovern’s long-time producing partner, a wonderful script but it was never made. Instead the film provided the framework for a series.

“Jimmy always wanted to go back to the thing that he loved doing most in his Brookside days, which is multi-character, multi-strand, continuing stories. He said, ‘I’ve got this story,’ we read it and we went ‘absolutely’.”

McGovern had already been working in Australia as a story editor on the acclaimed multi-award-winning ABC drama Redfern Now. He expanded his original film with new characters and stories gleaned from history but given new life. Many of the characters in Banished, from Governor Phillip, the founder of the settlement that would become Sydney, to Major Robert Ross, his nemesis, are known figures from history – but their stories here are fictional.

cast
Russell Tovey as James Freeman
MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn
Nicholas Moss as Spragg
Adam Nagaitis as Private Buckley
David Walmsley as William Stubbins
David Wenham as Governor Arthur Phillip
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith
Ewen Bremner as Reverend Johnson
Ryan Corr as Corporal MacDonald
David Dawson as Captain Collins
Ned Dennehy as Letters Molloy
Joseph Millson as Major Ross
Julian Rhind-Tutt as Tommy Barrett
Genevieve O’Reilly as Mrs. Mary Johnson
Rory McCann as Marston

UK – Australia | BBC Two | 2015

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