Walking The Dogs. The Queen (Emma Thompson). Copyright: Sprout Pictures.

Walking The Dogs

Sky Arts comedy drama. 1 episode in 2012. Stars Emma Thompson, Eddie Marsan, Russell Tovey, Malcolm Storry and Bryony Afferson.

Press Clippings

Walking the Dogs, part of Sky Arts' Playhouse Presents series, was a fictional reimagining of the encounter between the Queen and Michael Fagan, the man who broke in to Buckingham Palace in 1982 and may or may not have sat on her four-poster shooting the breeze until help arrived.

Emma Thompson took the role of our monarch, perhaps mindful of the peculiar reverence that automatically comes an actor's way these days when they put in a half-decent portrayal of a royal (Kate Winslet's Extras advice that "you're guaranteed an Oscar if you play a mental" perhaps needs updating).

Her interpretation wasn't literal - the accent a little less cut glass and, in a cotton nightie rather than twin set and Barbour, the iconography reduced - but Thompson captured that singular steeliness without froideur that defines our perception of the Queen. Her exchange with Eddie Marsan's Fagan - here a decent, everyman type pushed to the brink by marital breakdown - was convincing, though the tension was dulled by the fact that we know everything ended tamely enough, blunting Marsan's shifts between meek and menacing.

Overall, there were few wildly original ideas in play and the script at times over-egged the parallels between an ordinary bloke trying to hold it all together and the duty-bound monarch, but then it didn't pretend to be a grand philosophical exchange and its gentle humour was endearing ("You'd never be able to just take off without being recognised, what with the stamps," Fagan observes). What it did very well though was pinpoint why it's easier for many of us to identify with the Queen than with, say, an equities trader from Goldman Sachs. Whatever you think about monarchy in the abstract, nobody could deny that life must be deeply restrictive for a modern royal.

Rhiannon Harries, The Independent, 3rd June 2012

A largely forgotten footnote in a 60-year reign, the early-morning visit paid by Michael Fagan to Elizabeth II in 1982 is here turned into a showcase for Eddie Marsan and Emma Thompson, perfectly cast as the amiable but potentially volatile Fagan and composed but emotionally distant Liz. The pair make the sight of monarch and man-from-the-street chomping dog biscuits feel entirely natural , while Thompson's understated delivery as she alludes to her husband's dalliances rescues the sort of confessional that might have looked contrived or even comical on the page. Russell Tovey's Awol security officer breaks up the pace without adding much beyond a little context. But amid a sea of hyperbolic hymns of praise, this makes for a stately counterpoint, gently irreverent but still largely respectful to both parties.

Gabriel Tate, Time Out, 31st May 2012

Here we have Emma Thompson slipping into HRH's slippers for this gently irreverent short drama, inspired by the real-life 1982 incident when intruder Michael Fagan broke into the royal bed chamber and stayed for a chat.

Eddie Marsan, one of the best character actors on British TV, is superb as Fagan, while Russell Tovey pops up as a cheery footman.

Metro, 31st May 2012

Amid all the hullabaloo of the Diamond Jubilee this gentle drama takes a more oblique angle on the Queen. Imagining the conversation that took place when an intruder broke into the Queen's bedroom at Buckingham Palace in 1982, the smart script draws out the simple humanity of the woman beneath the crown as she debates love, life and freedom with her unexpected guest.

Emma Thompson is magnificently regal, and the interplay between her and Eddie Marsan's nervy intruder is spellbinding. But sometimes the spell is broken by scenes of Russell Tovey's jocular footman walking the dogs - unnecessary additions to a pitch-perfect two-hander.

David Crawford, Radio Times, 31st May 2012

Another small masterpiece from this inventive strand. Emma Thompson is HM The Queen and Eddie Marsan plays the man who broke into her private apartments in 1986. The two have an uneasy stand-off which gives way to philosophical debate and heartfelt counsel. Marsan and Thompson give a masterclass in restraint and expressive silences, while Russell Tovey is the titular dog-walker, a footman charged with exercising the royal corgies. Small, perfectly formed drama with a great cast.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 30th May 2012

In 1982 Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace and got into the Queen's bedroom. At the time reports suggested Fagan and the Queen had had a conversation, although Fagan has denied this. Helen Greaves's film imagines a conversation that an intruder (Eddie Marsan) might have with the Queen (Emma Thompson). The situation is absurd but within in it Greaves brings out a naturalness in the Queen as she shares her thoughts on happiness, marriage and love with her intruder - while munching on a dog biscuit.

Simon Horsford, The Telegraph, 30th May 2012