Hunderby. Image shows from L to R: Dr Foggerty (Rufus Jones), Helene (Alexandra Roach), Hesther (Rosie Cavaliero), Pastor John (Reece Shearsmith), Dorothy (Julia Davis), Edmund (Alex Macqueen), Biddy Ritherfoot (Jane Stanness). Copyright: Baby Cow Productions
Hunderby

Hunderby

  • TV sitcom
  • Sky Atlantic
  • 2012 - 2015
  • 9 episodes (1 series)

Period comedy written by and starring Julia Davis. Set in the 1800s, it focuses on the dark goings on in a small English village. Also features Alexandra Roach, Alex Macqueen, Rufus Jones, Rosie Cavaliero, Alexander Armstrong and more.

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Press clippings Page 3

Interview: Julia Davis

She's been responsible for some of British television's blackest and most brilliant comedy. But Stylist discovers Julia Davis is a sensitive soul at heart...

Andrew Dickens, Stylist, 6th September 2012

A Daphne du Maurier expert's view on Hunderby

This spoof drama is written by someone who certainly knows their stuff, says Daphne du Maurier expert Ann Willmore.

Laura Bennett, The Guardian, 4th September 2012

Of all the mysteries in Julia Davis's latest series, Hunderby, perhaps none can trump that surrounding its revered creator.

How, interviewers have repeatedly wondered, can the reserved, self-deprecating woman in front of them be the same one responsible for some of the most disturbing TV comedy of the last decade? Chiefly Nighty Night, the sadistic sick-com which saw a deranged suburbanite breaking up marriages, poisoning priests, and inseminating herself with semen-spattered pie and mash. And then Lizzie and Sarah, a 2010 pilot about two abused wives whose wet-weekend-in-Dungeness levels of bleakness convinced the BBC to schedule it in the treasured time-slot prefacing late-night Ceefax.

Well, the plot only thickens with, Hunderby, which is less overtly shocking than those previous works but just as bizarre: a Gothic burlesque both finely mounted and fetidly imagined. Set in "the year of the Lord 1831", as the sonorous narration has it, it tells the story of a shipwrecked, amnesiac ingénue (Alexandra Roach) who washes up in an English coastal village and falls into marriage with its widowed pastor, Edmund. But her real misfortune is to have been cast into a particularly demented riff on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, complete with devious housekeeper Dorothy, played by Davis herself, gruesome meal options, and endless servings of verbal and physical humiliation. "I take much comfort from your simplicity ... both of looks and character," Roach's hubby-to-be tells her early on, getting things off to a deliciously inauspicious start.

The script, needless to say, is one, long zinger, parodying high-falutin' costume-drama diction with an exquisite mixture of savagery and scatology. I loved Edmund's excruciating comparison of his first and second wives' pudenda: "Arabelle was smooth as ham - nature did not busy her broken mound with such a black and forceful brush". And Dorothy's sombre update on her master's mother's medical condition: "Her bowel has still not spoken, Sir ... though I fancy I caught a whisper." I could go on - and certainly will outside this column, so watch out friends, colleagues and quote-haters! - with countless other lines, whose surreal artistry you wanted to roll over your tongue and savour. Meanwhile Nighty Night fans will know what I mean when I say that the phrase "bubbly milk" could well become the new "Hiya Kath!"

But will the series have the impact of that cult favourite? Probably not - for all its perverse imagination, the tone is more muted, the humour less obvious and the literary conceit possibly more limiting. Though what chance it has rests with Davis's fabulously callous Dorothy; with her Medusa-like stare and simmering sexual pathology, she makes Mrs Danvers look like Mrs Doubtfire.

Hugh Montgomery, The Independent, 2nd September 2012

Hunderby, starring and written Julia Davis is a fruity romp, and it benefited hugely from a comedy performer normally the butt of jibes seizing his chance of a lead role. Alex MacQueen - the biscuit-nibbling, blue-sky-thinking buffoon in The Thick Of It - was a parson grieving for his dead wife. "Many a haggard fishwife was eager to warm the dent in the widower's bed," we were told. Eventually he remarried, but his new bride struggled to match up to a woman who was "proficient on both harpsichord and tuba and could outrun any negro". After bedroom conjugals - as squirm-inducing as you'd expect from Davis - the parson liked to recover with a glass of "bubbly milk". The creator played the demonic housekeeper in an eyepatch. At dinner one night, one of the guests remarked on the crunchiness of her fayre. "Battered lambs' faces, sir - 12 more in the pot."

Aidan Smith, The Scotsman, 1st September 2012

Julia Davis Hunderby Q&A

Julia Davis's name has pretty much become shorthand for brilliant British comedy over the past decade. Every show she's been involved with - Nighty Night, Human Remains, Gavin & Stacey, Big Train - has an air of modern classic about it.

Alex Fletcher, Digital Spy, 31st August 2012

"Last night I dreamed I went to Hunderby (Sky Atlantic) again ..." Yes, I think that has a certain ring to it. OK, so no one actually says that in this filthy little comedy, written by and starring Julia Davis, but it's clear she's more than just nodding at Rebecca. It pretty much is Rebecca, with added Julia Davis-macabre (Daphne Doom Horror here? Sorry). And extra Nighty-Night inappropriateness, because she's Julia Davis. Oh, and she has taken it back to the 1830s, presumably because she likes the feel and smell of them days, the clothes. And the olde-worlde speak.

That kind of language does sit very nicely with Davis's potty pen. No, nicely is not right, more like wrongly. But gloriously wrongly. "You are much darker down there than perhaps I'd imagined," says Edmund the vicar, staring at his new bride who's naked in the bath.

"Do I not please you, sir?" asks poor Helene.

"Nay, nay, 'tis just that Arabelle was smooth as ham, nature did not busy her broken mound with such a black and forceful brush."

Arabelle is the previous wife, the Rebecca character who hangs like a stone around poor Helene's neck, perfect in every way (including perfectly smooth as ham "down there").

Poor Helene is taken off to be shaved by Dorothy, the Mrs Danvers housekeeper character (Davis, beautifully deadpan and creepy), before the marriage can be consummated.

"Come bride, 'tis a quarter after 10, we shall intercourse until a 30 after," says Edmund cheerfully (another great comedy performance, by Alex MacQueen). I'm not quite sure why, but that little indefinite article before "30" adds an extra spoonful of cringiness. Davis is good like that, with language; she can milk an extra wince out of a line, just by adding a tiny little word.

It's not just about the words though. The sex, when it (sort of) happens, is horrendous, as horrid as the two scenes of comedy dancing are hilarious. Like squeaky rabbit rape, though perhaps technically not rape because, as Helene says, "'tis not in".

Yes, sometimes it feels as if Davis is showing off, simply demonstrating that she dares to go to places no one else does (especially places "down there"). Why shouldn't she, though? It doesn't all work, doesn't all come off; at times you're spluttering and shuddering at the wrongness. Laughing a lot too, though, because it is, as I said, gloriously wrongness.

Oh and unlike the weekend's Bad Sugar (which Davis starred in) and A Touch of Cloth, it's not just a series of jokes. There's mortar sticking the gags together, a reason to come back for more. I mean a story. Not Davis's story, perhaps, but a very good one.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 28th August 2012

A spoofy period comedy drama whose plot seems like a cross between Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Hunderby might have gone the way of so many previous period spoofs like it, and sunk. It did the opposite. Not every joke worked wonders, but it did manage to be funny in a creepy, faux-gothic sort of way. It's written by Nighty Night creator Julia Davis (who seems suddenly omnipresent on TV), and her performance as the quietly crazed housekeeper is by far the strongest.

Arifa Akbar, The Independent, 28th August 2012

This is a queer beast. Nighty Night creator Julia Davis scripts the tale of a woman who, in 1851, washes up at a glum coastal village. She marries a widower parson, incurring the wrath of his demonic housekeeper (Davis), who prefers the first, dead, wife.

There's heavy investment in an impeccable cast and setting, but I'm not sure what Hunderby is. Davis's reputation is for visiting icky places nobody else will brave; this is mainly innuendo and goofing, with gaps between gags as the linear story chugs on.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 27th August 2012

Doomed romance, bad luck and sexual confusion are hallmarks of the work of both Daphne Du Maurier and Julia Davis, so this sordid eight-part marriage of the two feels entirely natural. As a homage to Rebecca and the like, Hunderby is sublime: the turns of phrase are deft, the performances arch and loaded with menace, and the wider production superbly detailed. And, importantly, room is also made for a cock-n-balls gag. Davis herself is Mrs Danvers surrogate Dorothy, pining after her late mistress (whose 'broken mound was as smooth as ham') and plotting against her new one, Helene (doe-eyed Alexandra Roach), the shipwreck survivor courted by uptight pastor Edmund (Alex McQueen). Claustrophobic and grimly hilarious in the manner of Davis's best work, it's a triumphant opening double bill.

Gabriel Tate, Time Out, 27th August 2012

Julia Davis on Hunderby

Julia Davis, creator of some of the most delectably dark television ever to air in Britain, talks to has Chris Harvey about Hunderby, her first series in seven years.

Chris Harvey, The Telegraph, 27th August 2012

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