Birds of a Feather star at drama preview

LORNA MARSH It is more usually known for cult film screenings or classic re-releases rather than exclusive premieres.

LORNA MARSH

It is more usually known for cult film screenings or classic re-releases rather than exclusive premieres.

But yesterday the stars were out for a sneak preview of what has become one of Norfolk's finest exports.

Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph joined up-and-coming young Norfolk actress Elysia Lukoszevieze at the Norwich Playhouse for the first glimpse of the second series of The Secret of Eel Island which will be shown on national television later this month.

The children's drama is the first from Norwich-based company Eye Film and Television and was shot entirely in Norfolk and Suffolk, bringing the beauty of the Broads to a national audience, and at the company's Magdalen Street studios.

Its success and popularity has meant producers have brought in more characters for the 13-part second series, including a new villain played by Ms Joseph.

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The nationwide favourite joined a throng of local cast and crew as well as actors and actresses from further afield, including John Ringham and fellow newcomer 13-year-old Ben Kerfoot, from Sussex, who plays the cousin of Eel Island heroine Sapphire, acted by Elysia.

Ms Joseph revealed to the EDP how she would love to do a one-off "catch-up" special episode of the Birds of a Feather series for which she is most famous.

And she told of her love for Norwich and Norfolk and the friendships she formed with Elysia and her mother, leading to the pair, from Mattishall, near Dereham, staying at her London house for the weekend.

"It was great working with the children, absolutely fantastic. I love children's television anyway and this is the third children's programme I've done," she said.

"I just loved it, I have always made a point of doing things because I am going to enjoy them not because they are going to advance my career and when I saw the script I knew I had to do it.

"It is so magical, there is this real otherworldly feel to it. And I love this area anyway. I've done a few things at the theatre so I am very familiar with it. We've been on boats on the Broads - it was just glorious. It's not like work."

Elysia, 11, said she now wants to develop her acting career further.

"I had an amazing time filming, it was great, doing things like talking to an otter which I never thought I would do. I loved it."

Veteran television actor Mr Ringham, whose past achievements include roles in Flambards and Birds of a Feather alongside Ms Joseph said it was great to be back in the region after filming here over spring.

Charlie Gauvain, managing director of Eye and producer of the series, said the idea behind yesterday's screening was to thank all those who worked hard to make it, as well as to showcase just how much talent there was in the region.

Five episodes from the new series were shown, introducing not only Ms Joseph's new character, Green Beryl, but also Sapphire's cousin Malachite, a whole host of animals and some exciting new adventures.

Mr Gauvain said making the series was "an epic task".

"With an extremely tight timetable, and some ambitious set pieces, we pulled off some amazing scenes. Green Beryl adds a real sense of menace and there is far more action this time around.

"We even staged a hot-air balloon crash."

Director and writer of the series Frank Prendergast, also a founding member of Eye, said he felt the drama represented something important nationally as well as locally with a dearth of new, home-grown children's dramas.

The second series of The Secret of Eel Island will start airing on Five on Sunday, October 29, at 9.30am.