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BBC1 orders new dramas from Lenny Henry and Mike Bartlett

Lenny Henry, who will be hosting the Olivier Awards, in a scene from Fences. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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BBC1 is to broadcast new dramas from Lenny Henry, Mike Bartlett and Steve Pemberton, as part of a range of new commissions that will also see the channel become the exclusive home to Agatha Christie content.

Announcing the new dramas today, BBC drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson said he wanted the BBC1 to offer “writers the biggest stage in Britain for their work, at whatever length is right for the story”.

“We believe that crucial to all creative success is raising our game, not looking at what worked yesterday but what could work tomorrow,” he said, adding: “Over the next few years we will continue to challenge ourselves in order to lead the pack in this fast-changing television drama landscape.”

Under its new arrangement with Agatha Christie Limited, BBC1 has ordered adaptations of Christie’s And Then There Were None, and Partners in Crime.

And Then There Were None is being adapted by Sarah Phelps, while Partners in Crime is a six-part series, the first three episodes of which will be penned by Zinnie Harris.

Mathew Prichard, chairman of Agatha Christie Limited and grandson of Christie, said: “It is fantastic that, in her all-important 125th anniversary year, my grandmother is to be welcomed with such enthusiasm to the BBC, a wonderful new home for her much-loved characters and their stories, and one which she would be delighted with. The commitment to these productions from all those involved is great to see, and I’ve no doubt will result in compelling new adaptations, to be enjoyed by fans old and new.”

The new partnership follows the end of Poirot on ITV.

Meanwhile, BBC1 has commissioned The C Word, a single drama adapted from Lisa Lynch’s book about her experiences of cancer. It will star Sheridan Smith and is adapted by Nicole Taylor.

Henry’s drama is called Danny and the Human Zoo, and is a “fictionalised memoir” of his life as a teenager in Dudley.

Henry said: “I’ve crammed the first two years of a very long career into 90 minutes. I think, although it’s not exactly what happened, that we’ll get a strong sense of what it might have been like for a young black kid from Dudley to be suddenly hurled into the maelstrom of this business we call show.”

Bartlett’s drama, called Doctor Foster, is about a GP who suspects her husband of having an affair, while Pemberton’s commission is a three-part adaptation of E F Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels.

The BBC also announced today that Aidan Turner will star in Poldark, Debbie Horsfield’s new eight-part drama, and that Call the Midwife will return for a fourth series.

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