Updated 30th January; The first one hour episode of the two-part drama will air on BBC1 on February 7th at 9:00 pm.
Sheridan Smith has just finished playing Fanny Brice in Funny Girl to rave reviews at the Menier Chocolate Factory. She has a short break between the production leaving the Menier Chocolate Factory to transfer into the Savoy Theatre to finish filming a controversial new TV drama called the Moorside Project about the 2008 abduction of schoolgirl Shannon Matthews.
The two-part drama will chart the hunt for Matthews and the impact of the revelation that her 24-day disappearance was a hoax kidnapping organised by her own mother. It will give a fresh perspective on a front page story we all remember, focusing not on the crime itself but on the community that lived through it.
Sheridan Smith is playing Julie Bushby (pretty unrecognisable in the picture ) who was a friend of Shannon’s mother Karen and head of Dewsbury’s Moorside estate residents local community who led the search when the nine-year-old disappeared. Matthews led the group women who spearheaded a search for kidnapped schoolgirl Shannon Matthews.
Sheridan said: “The story is a fascinating mixture of what I thought I knew and a whole lot more that I had no idea about. “The themes of faith and trust in human nature, and the way the whole community came together really inspired me.”
Writer Neil McKay said “This drama takes us into the heart of a story and a community that was defined more by prejudice than genuine understanding,” . “It has been a privilege to research and write. To have the story brought to life by such an outstanding cast, led by the extraordinary Sheridan Smith, is a truly thrilling prospect.”
Filming has now begun, almost two years on from the first attempt to get the drama off the ground. It is being shot by the team behind Appropriate Adult (the acclaimed drama that told the story of trainee social worker Janet Leach who was asked by police to sit in on their interviews with serial killer Fred West).
The cast also includes The Syndicate actor Siobhan Finneran as family liaison officer Christine Freeman; Sian Brooke – who starred as Ophelia opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet plays Natalie Brown, the friend that Karen Matthews (Gemma Whelan) goes to stay with during the search for Shannon.