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ElvenQuest: a new adventure begins

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David Thair | 18:30 UK time, Tuesday, 28 April 2009

ElvenQuest

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ElvenQuest, a fantastical new comedy show from writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, starts this Wednesday at 6.30pm on Radio 4. We chatted to Anil (whose credits include The Office, Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No. 42) about the programme...

Comedy Blog: For the uninitiated: what is ElvenQuest?

Anil Gupta: ElvenQuest is a sitcom about a misanthropic writer of fantasy novels who finds himself whisked away into a parallel universe by an elf, a dwarf and a warrior princess, where he must undertake to find the Sword of Asnagar in order to save Lower Earth from the evil Lord Darkness before he can get home.

Comedy Blog: What inspired it?

Anil Gupta: Lots of things really. There have been a few comic takes on the sci fi genre (Red Dwarf, Hyperdrive, the film Galaxy Quest) and the recent run of films in the fantasy area (Lord of the Rings, the Narnia stories) meant that it felt like a good time to tackle it.

Comedy Blog: You've a track record of producing some very well known TV comedies. Why the return to radio?

Anil Gupta: Radio is always great fun to do. There is a freedom and immediacy about it that nearly makes up for the tiny amounts of money. Also, they commissioned a series based on a five line synopsis, so we felt we had to repay their trust.

Comedy Blog: Are you particular fans of Tolkienesque fantasy?

Anil Gupta: I wouldn't say we were 'fans', and certainly proper fans would consider us to be complete amateurs. But I do enjoy some fantasy fiction - Terry Pratchett for example, and the William Goldman film, The Princess Bride. As for Tolkein, like many people I loved The Hobbit but struggled with The Lord of the Rings which I daresay makes me a fantasy lightweight.

Comedy Blog: Was your plan to do a fairly straight spoof of Lord of the Rings, or create your own fantasy universe?

Anil Gupta: The plan was never to simply spoof LOTR. Mainly because its been done (Hoard of the Things?) but also because we wanted to create a show which would exist in it's own right. In the best sitcoms the comedy should come from the characters and their inter-relationships, which means they can't simply be two dimensional parodies.

Comedy Blog: Which of your cast was best at silly voices? We hear Alistair McGowan doesn't want to do impressions anymore, but on radio no-one would know it was him as Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee etc...

Anil Gupta: Kevin [Eldon] was brilliant playing two parts (Dean and Kreech) although interestingly, and after much experimentation, the voice he chose for Kreech was relatively straight. But Darren [Boyd] also showed amazing versatility and of course Alistair gave the narrator a touch of the Anthony Hopkins. A lot of the smaller parts are played by Chris Pavlo, so he had to come up with a whole range of different voices, most of them fairly silly.

Also listen out for Stephen Mangan's "Fairy king" in episode 3 - utterly shameless.

Comedy Blog: Finally, who would you be: Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie or Elf? (Please remember not to shoot the food)

Anil Gupta: Wizard. Obviously.

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