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24 September 2014
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A disturbingly funny thriller written and created by Simon Ashdown and Jeremy Dyson

Starts on BBC THREE on Sunday 23 October at 10.00pm


Funland is the hotly-anticipated collaboration between Bafta Award-winning EastEnders writer Simon Ashdown and Jeremy Dyson, multiple award-winning writer of The League of Gentlemen.


Set in Blackpool, over one long weekend, Funland brings us to the black heart of Blackpool - bringing the saucy seaside postcard screaming into the 21st century.


Funland takes us on a mysterious journey where things are not quite what they seem.


There's Carter Krantz, played by newcomer Daniel Mays, who arrives in Blackpool to avenge the death of his mother. Without a penny to his name and carrying only a fragment of paper containing the words 'Ambrose Chapel', Carter tries to uncover the truth about his mother and in doing so is sucked into the most disturbing of mysteries.


He meets the dysfunctional Woolf family who are at the heart of everything that happens in Blackpool: there's Shirley Woolf (Ian Puleston-Davies), a borderline psycho; his mother, the evil and manipulative Mercy (Judy Parfitt); and his foolhardy wife Connie (Frances Barber).


Meanwhile the Suttons - Dudley (Kris Marshall) and Lola (Sarah Smart) - arrive in Blackpool for a dirty weekend to spice up their marriage, but their weekend at the Shangri-La guesthouse in Blackpool turns their world upside down and their lives will never be the same again.


"At the centre of the story is the Woolf family," explains Simon Ashdown, one half of the writing partnership.


"There is a lot of history to the family and they have their own storyline going on. Then there is Carter, who is a very dangerous and dark character with a mystery to solve; and the Suttons, a very ordinary couple who are having problems with their marriage.


"The idea was to keep the three storylines very separate at first and then with each episode move the three storylines more and more together until they become completely entangled."


"I think you very much see things from Dudley and Lola's point of view," continues Jeremy Dyson.


"Funland is this bizarre and crazy mythical world with a larger-than-life set of characters. But Dudley and Lola are the most ordinary out of the characters and they show us the way into Blackpool.


"They come to Blackpool for the weekend, which is how most of us would experience Blackpool, so they become the easiest to empathise with."


There is a fantastic array of weird and wonderful characters in Funland, most of whom people would never hope to meet in everyday life.


There's the corrupt town Mayor, played by Roy Barraclough; Vienna Keen (Beth Cordingly), the enigmatic lapdancer; Kevin Eldon as the mysterious Shadowman; and Philip Jackson as the seedy Leo Finch, who runs the Shangri-La guesthouse.


"The idea is that you have this spectrum of characters where you go from the most seemingly ordinary, which is Dudley and Lola, to the most bizarre - which is probably Ambrose Chapfel, the repressed Dutch taxidermist, played by Mark Gatiss.


"I had been watching Mark in Nighty Night and thought he was fantastic in that and just perfect to play Ambrose," says Ashdown.


And for many of the actors, this involved taking on roles unlike anything that they had ever done before.


"In particular, I think Judy Parfitt playing Mercy feels so different because you have never seen her play a character like that," explains Ashdown.


"And so when you see her for the first time it really does feel like a big moment. And Kris Marshall gives a very brave and honest performance as Dudley because he had to do so many things that were quite humiliating, really, and he did it brilliantly."


The seaside town of Blackpool provides the perfect backdrop for Funland, and visiting the town again has brought back a lot of memories for Jeremy Dyson.


"I adore Blackpool! One of my earliest memories is being taken on a family holiday to Blackpool. I absolutely loved the place and have been back many times since," he reminisces.


"I think the world that Simon and I have created is very much a fictitious world which was inspired by Blackpool. We've created a mythical version of Blackpool which has one foot in the truth of the place and there was a great pleasure in taking a real place and creating a very heightened version of it."


For Simon and Jeremy, bringing the worlds of comedy and continuing drama together was an exciting prospect and a challenge that both couldn't wait to get started on.


"I think it's unusual for two writers who are both established in a particular field to be able to then fuse with someone else," explains Dyson.


"I think when we first sat down together we both began quite nervously, like people who had been sent on a blind date or something - but in the beginning we talked and talked for hours and seemed to get on really well so the writing process seemed quite natural, really, and hopefully it gives the show a totally original feel.


"It was a very different experience to how I have worked before though. On The League of Gentlemen there were four of us writing and the other three are also the actors. Writing with the actors is very different to writing with another writer. And not knowing the cast in advance was all new to me too - basic stuff to most writers - so it was a big learning curve for me."


"And I'm not the kind of person that would normally write with another writer," adds Ashdown. "I think we got really lucky because we hardly had any creative disagreements at all.


"There certainly wasn't loads of ego in the room! If there was a difference of opinion then we would both argue our case and whoever had the best argument would win."


"I think what's interesting is there's a lot of overlap between the worlds of drama and comedy and Jeremy would quite often write the dramatic lines and I would write comic lines.


"Despite mainly working on drama series, I have always been interested in comedy and my first job was in comedy, writing scripts for John Cleese for a series of short films. I have definitely learnt a lot about comedy from sitting in the same room as Jeremy Dyson."


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