Recommended second chance
Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders
Comic Strip Presents...Five Go To Rehab
Time has not worn well on those idealistic kids who once enjoyed ‘lashings of ginger beer’ and picnics as they indulged in countryside adventures. Thirty years on from the much-loved Comic Strip Presents… Five Go Mad in Dorset, the Fantastic Five are back in a new adventure as inadequate adults who are struggling in the modern world.
Anne (Jennifer Saunders) and Julian (Peter Richardson) are recovering alcoholics in rehab, George (Dawn French) has four failed marriages behind her to wealthy older men and only Dick (Ade Edmondson) has managed something of a career in middle management of a plastic mouldings company. Oh and Timmy the Dog, of course, who is still a picture of health at 30 plus!
TV Choice caught up with the team filming on location in Devon, which doubles for the Dorset countryside in the films…
The high ideals of the pals seems to have crashed and burned…
Ade Edmondson They are all sad casualties of life who have hit hard times and, although Dick has a modicum of success, he is just as sad personality wise.
Jennifer Saunders Dawn has become a sort of suburban, drinking shagger, haven’t you?
Dawn French Nothing new there.
Ade Edmondson I think she sees herself as a cougar!
Thinking back to 1982, what was the atmosphere like on that original film?
Dawn French We were massively excited.
Jennifer Saunders We just thought we were coming away with our chums, really, on a bit of a holiday. We couldn’t believe our luck. It was just like everything was great.
Dawn French In those days if someone said ‘wrap’ at the end of the day we would go, ‘Oh no!’
Jennifer Saunders We don’t feel like that now, do we? All we care about now is if that there will be somewhere comfy for us to sit.
Dawn French That’s elderly. It’s a rule as an actor that as you get older you get more difficult — even to people that you know and love. We demand sherry at four o’clock.
Ade Edmondson And a footrest.
Did any of the characters actually say, ‘Lashings of ginger beer’ in the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton?
Peter Richardson No, it isn’t in the books but there are always lashings of tomatoes and lettuce.
Ade Edmondson Lashings of tomatoes? That doesn’t sound right.
Was it always obvious which characters you would play?
Dawn French I think that was down to you, wasn’t it, Pete, as the writer and director?
Ade Edmondson It’s pretty much to type, really.
Peter Richardson I’m the bossy one. In this new film he has been involved with some kind of corruption and dodgy dealings and there are people after him for money. If he could get some money out of Dick, that would help.
Five Goes Mad In Dorset seems a pivotal moment in comedy looking back, but did it feel like that at the time?
Dawn French We weren’t at all aware. We were just doing what Pete told us to do really. He was the one who wanted to make films. The rest of us were live performers. Now we realise what an extraordinary experience that was, being able to write, direct and produce our own stuff. I think it was a little film industry for a while.
How many Comic Strip films did you make?
Peter Richardson Thirty or 40. I can’t remember.
Would you be able to go to the BBC now and say, ‘I’ve got six individual comic films?’
Jennifer Saunders They just don’t have the budget now. And if they did they would probably want someone who they recognise in it. Sarah Lancashire. She’d be in it.
Dawn French It’s Miranda now.
Ade Edmondson They would replace Pete with Warren Clarke!
Do you find yourselves reminiscing a lot in the evenings?
Ade Edmondson No, we have to sleep in the hyperbaric chambers!
Dawn French When we got the shorts on and the bikes out — that was a weird moment. And when Robbie Coltrane returned to play ‘Mr Gypsy’– that felt odd.
When you have stopped filming for the day do you go to the pub or a restaurant together?
Dawn French We went out the other night and we’re going out tonight.
Do you get recognised much?
Jennifer Saunders Not around here.
Dawn French If Jen and I are together it causes more of a stir and there always seems to be someone around taking a picture that ends up in a magazine.
Sorry about that!