Interview: Joel Fry on BBC One's brilliant new drama, Requiem.
In 1994, a toddler disappeared from a small Welsh village, never to be seen again.
Twenty three years later, in London, the mother of rising cello star Matilda Gray commits suicide, without apparent reason.
Among her possessions, Matilda discovers tantalising evidence that links her mother to the Welsh girl’s disappearance all those years ago.
And so grief-stricken Matilda travels to Wales, determined to explore this mystery, even if it means unraveling her own identity. In the process, she uncovers long buried secrets in this remote community - including one secret more bizarre, terrifying and dangerous than anything she could have imagined. Dark otherworldly forces are gathering - they have been waiting many years for Matilda to arrive.
If every life is a story, then for most of us, it’s our parents who write the opening chapters. They record and remember our early childhoods as we cannot, acting as trusted witnesses to our lives.
But what if you discovered that your parent might have lied to you? That almost everything they’d said about their own history, and yours, might have been untrue?
Requiem takes its inspiration from the psychological horror films of the late 1960s and ‘70s - Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and The Innocents, avoiding easy answers, and instead playing on uncertainty and ambiguity.
It’s also a rumination on the nature of memory, identity, and loss, hinging on a universal truth: that when a parent dies, a part of you dies with them.
Hal is Matilda’s accompanist - in music and in life. A dedicated music-nerd, Hal’s public school polish can’t hide a certain lovable gawkiness.
If Matilda’s musicality comes from a place of passion and intuition, Hal’s is all intellect and rigour. Hal has been in love with Matilda from the moment he met her; a love that he knows will never be reciprocated, at least not in the way he wishes. Matilda knows it too, of course, yet they never speak of it.
Perhaps because they both understand that once Hal’s true feelings are acknowledged, their easy friendship will never be the same. Still, their friendship is real, and deep - and grounded in their shared love of music.
Hal is played by Joel Fry...
lease outline Hal’s relationship with Matilda.
Hal is a wet blanket, but he’s a nice wet blanket! He loves Matilda, but it’s hard to tell if she knows that. She probably does when Hal sits and talks to her for ages, but it’s the last thing on her mind at the moment. She has other things on her mind and other fish to fry! They were bonded before, but when they go on this quest together, they reach a new level of intimacy.
Hal is fascinated by Matilda. She is an incredibly talented musician and a bit of a rock star in the classical music world. She’s gutsy and fearless. Everyone is understandably attracted to her.
How has it been working with Lydia?
It’s been fantastic. She’s really, really talented. She’s very devoted to her work - which she needed to be in this part!
She worked so hard on Requiem. She’s like Mahalia; she really cares about what she’s doing - everything else is background noise. It was really easy to do things with her because we both wanted the same thing; we both wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be.
Sometimes lead performers get too paranoid about themselves, but Lydia is not like that at all. She’s a real team player.
How did you find it filming in the eerie old house which plays such a vital role in Requiem?
It was really quite strange and spooky. It’s one of those old houses where you walk in and can’t help feeling, “What kind of things have happened here in the past?”
How did the locations enhance the drama?
We went to some very remote, very beautiful places in North Wales and that really helps because you’re so far away from everything. It also helps because it creates a travelling-company vibe. Everyone is in it together and feels very bonded. It harks back to the time when actors were travelling players, going around the country putting on plays. That was a very nice extra element to making this drama.
What impact do you hope that Requiem will have on its audience?
I hope viewers are really transported by it. It’s a brilliant mystery, which wraps up very satisfyingly at the end. It’s such an achievement.
Mahalia cares so much about what she’s doing, and that doesn’t always happen in TV. Above all, I hope people really invest in Matilda.
When scary things happen, viewers find it even more scary when they really care about the characters, and I think that will be the case here. This drama is unique. We put a great deal of effort into Requiem, and it really felt like we were making something special. I very much hope viewers will agree.