Joe Wilkinson starring in farcical film romp A Family Affair

ExclusiveWednesday 15th June 2022, 5:08pm by Jay Richardson

The Cockfields. Simon (Joe Wilkinson)

Joe Wilkinson has shot his first lead role in a film - but his TV sitcom The Cockfields will not be returning, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Filming wrapped last week on "farcical romp" A Family Affair, in which Wilkinson plays the owner of a failing spiritual retreat, starring alongside his After Life co-star Colin Hoult, Laura Aikman and screen legend Jane Asher, whose comedy roles include BBC sitcom The Old Guys and Death At A Funeral, the darkly humorous 2007 British film that director Warren Fischer cites as a touchstone for his black comedy, along with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The White Lotus.

Written and directed by South African filmmaker Fischer for his production company Fishcake Films, A Family Affair was shot over 12 days in Cape Town but is set on a single day in the English countryside.

Husband and wife Edward (Wilkinson) and Helen (Aikman) have invested in a quaint country manor house that they operate as a silent, spiritual retreat. But after months of poor performance and scathing online reviews, the bank is threatening to foreclose on the property.

Unbeknownst to Helen, these threats have culminated in a public auction of the house which could ruin the fortieth wedding anniversary of her parents, Margaret (Asher) and Walter (Michael Maxwell). Meanwhile, Albert (David Sherwood), Edward's father, supposedly mourning the recent loss of his wife, arrives at the celebrations with a much younger date (Jazzara Jaslyn), who takes an instant fancy to Walter, mistakenly believing him to be old-moneyed.

Edward suspects some of the guests may actually be buyers and has to stave off the threat of losing the house while trying to placate his difficult mother-in-law, who never seems to have liked him. Fortunately, Rhys (Hoult), the retreat's resident spiritual guru, brings some calm to the situation in the form of a really strong "organic" sedative.

Aikman, who starred in BBC bomb disposal sitcom Bluestone 42 and whose other credits include recurring roles in Not Going Out and Citizen Khan, was among several cast members sharing images from the set on Instagram:

Fischer has been developing A Family Affair for seven years and was set to shoot in January, until fears about the emerging Omicron variant of coronavirus postponed production until May. Currently in post-production, he anticipates engaging with sales agents and distributors in the UK from the autumn and hopes to release the film towards the end of this year.

"In South Africa, we've all grown up on British comedy" he told BCG. "John Cleese, Monty Python and Rowan Atkinson were all inspirations, it's very much a British farce. I would compare it to Death At A Funeral and tonally, it's similar to [US satirical comedy-drama about wealthy guests at luxury Hawaii and Sicily resorts] The White Lotus."

Currently appearing on ITV's competition show Cooking With The Stars, Wilkinson played minor roles in Brett Goldstein's 2015 superhero film Superbob, God's Petting You, which was released in March, and 2012's Eggbox, but A Family Affair is his first substantial big screen role.

His long-time writing partner, David Earl, has been attracting acclaim for co-writing and starring in Brian And Charles, which won the Sundance Film Festival in London's audience award on Sunday and is released in select cinemas from 8th July.

The Cockfields. Image shows from L to R: Ray (Bobby Ball), Andre (Jeff Mirza), Sue (Sue Johnston), David (Ben Rufus Green), Simon (Joe Wilkinson), Melissa (Sarah Parish), Donna (Diane Morgan), Larry (Nigel Havers)

Meanwhile, written by Wilkinson and Earl about an eccentric family on the Isle of Wight, and co-starring the former, sitcom The Cockfields ran for two series on Gold between 2019 and 2021. The rest of the cast included Sue Johnston, Diane Morgan, Susannah Fielding, Gregor Fisher, Ben Rufus Green and the late Bobby Ball.

Earl and Wilkinson disclosed that The Cockfields has not been recommissioned, on their Chatabix podcast, with Wilkinson reflecting that because they were coming out of an intense period of working and weren't sure of their next projects, "that's why we're rudderless".

However, appearing on Behnaz Akhgar's BBC Radio Wales show with his Brian And Charles co-writer Chris Hayward yesterday, Earl suggested that the success of the feature meant he was now looking to write more films.

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