New First World War drama The Crimson Field has left an indelible impression on its cast, reveals actress Hermione Norris
Hermione Norris, Suranne Jones and Oona Chaplin star in BBC1’s The Crimson Field, a new six-part drama that explores the human impact of the First World War and pays tribute to the millions who sacrificed their lives.
Hermione plays Grace Carter, the matron of a French field hospital, and she has poignant memories of the effects the conflict had on her own family.
“I remember being four and my grandfather [who fought in the First World War] was very confused,” reveals Hermione. “He was sitting on the kitchen floor, calling out to boys in the trenches. He asked me to come and sit with him and, being four, I went to keep him company.
“My grandma would say, ‘Oh, he’s calling out to the boys again’. Every year he’d go to hospital and have shrapnel removed from his leg.”
Hermione told the Daily Express she feels honoured to have been cast in a drama that acutely depicts the agonies of the war, and read widely to research her role.
“I think what stands out most is the suffering – without modern anaesthetics – and all that human loss. What those people did in the name of duty is just beyond imagination really.”
Sister Joan Livesey, played by former Coronation Street actress Suranne Jones, is a woman ahead of her time and makes her grand entrance on a motorbike.
“After the read-through I fell in love with Hermione,” says Suranne. “Her character, Grace, realises the world is changing and nothing will ever be the same again, so I think there is a definite respect between the two women.”
Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, plays Kitty Trevelyan, one of the hospital’s first VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment), who arrives with emotional baggage and a chip on her shoulder.
“It was essentially a group of posh ladies who felt a call of duty. They were trained in how to make beds, how to cook and how to look after people,” Oona explains.
Writer Sarah Phelps created The Crimson Field with Lyn MacDonald’s military nursing memoir, The Roses Of No Man’s Land, as a starting point.
“It’s amazing, when you think about how little they had to work with at the start of the war, that anybody survived at all,” reflects Sarah.
“I just hope what comes across in the drama is that you get terrible acts of brutality and terrible acts of cruelty, but what really shines through is the humanity.”
The Crimson Field, BBC1, 9.00pm, Sunday, April 6