Filming has begun on Life In Squares, an intimate and emotional drama for BBC Two, about the revolutionary Bloomsbury Group – a collection of friends and lovers who had an extraordinary and enduring influence on 20th century culture.
Penned by BAFTA Award-winning writer, Amanda Coe (Room At The Top) and produced by Ecosse Films in association with Tiger Aspect, Life In Squares dramatizes the close and often fraught relationship between sisters, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, and Vanessa’s sexually complicated alliance with gay artist Duncan Grant as they, and their group of like-minded friends, navigate their way through love, sex and artistic life through the first half of the 20th century
Starring a stellar array of British talent, the ensemble cast includes hotly tipped stars of the future Phoebe Fox (A Poet In New York), Lydia Leonard (Wolf Hall), James Norton (Happy Valley), Sam Hoare (An Adventure In Space And Time), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Divergent), Edmund Kingsley (The Borgias), and Ed Birch (Sherlock).
The cast also includes a wealth of established and acclaimed talent: Eve Best (Nurse Jackie, The Honourable Woman), Catherine McCormack (28 Weeks Later, Lights Out), Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks, Silk), Jack Davenport (The Good Wife, Pirates Of The Caribbean), Elliot Cowan and Andrew Havill. Filming will be taking place on location in London and at Charleston Farmhouse, the group’s iconic base in East Sussex.
Starting in 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria, the drama tells the story of the young friends as they attempt to escape the shackles of Victorian England and embrace lives dedicated to creative and sexual freedom. The group, which coalesces around sisters Vanessa (Fox) and Virginia (Leonard), aspire to build a world of their own design, pursuing their passions and desires without constraint: a distinctive lifestyle in which they legendarily ‘lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles’.
The drama unpicks the complex and entangled relationships between the sisters and their Bloomsbury contemporaries Duncan Grant (Norton), Lytton Strachey (Birch), Clive Bell (Hoare) and Maynard Keynes (Kingsely), and the turbulent legacy they unwittingly enacted on generations to come, in particular Vanessa and Duncan’s daughter Angelica, played by Lucy Boynton.
The story of their early years is told alongside the later lives of Vanessa and Virginia (Best and McCormack), settled into marriage, motherhood and in Virginia’s case enjoying huge public acclaim, but struggling to reconcile themselves to the heartache of loss, betrayal and mental anguish.
Dubbed 20th century leaders of artistic and sexual freedom, the drama follows these inspirational women and their artistic peers as they face timeless dilemmas about romance, family, work and sex.
Executive producer Lucy Bedford said: “Life In Squares gets under the skin of the Bloomsbury Group to lay bare the very human and emotional story of a group of people determined to find their own path in life. Locked in a perpetual struggle to reconcile their heads with their hearts, they loved and worked with great passion and forged lives that still resonate today.
“At heart, Life In Squares is about family – about the families we try to escape, the ones we end up creating and the different kinds of damage love can do. Amanda Coe’s scripts are beautifully wrought, Simon Kaijser’s vision is immense and we couldn’t be more excited to have assembled this amazing cast whose creativity and talent is every bit as potent as the characters they portray.”
Lucy Richer, Commissioning Editor, BBC Independent Drama, said: “We are delighted to have assembled a magnificent team both on and off screen to make Life In Squares. The combination of Amanda Coe’s stunning scripts, director Simon Kaijser and our talented cast will bring to life this extraordinary era in a unique, fresh and exciting way.”
Life In Squares is an Ecosse Films production, in association with Tiger Aspect, commissioned for the BBC by Ben Stephenson and Lucy Richer.
Written by Amanda Coe, produced by Rhonda Smith (Fresh Meat, Mistresses), directed by Simon Kaijser (Don’t Ever Wipe Their Tears Without Gloves), with executive producers Lucy Bedford, Amanda Coe, Douglas Rae and Lucy Richer.