The Mezzotint

UK 2021, 30 mins
Director: Mark Gatiss

+ Q&A with director Mark Gatiss and cast members Frances Barber, Robert Bathurst and Nikesh Patel. Hosted by Matthew Sweet.

‘For sale: Interesting mezzotint: View of a manor-house, early part of last century.’

It’s 1922 and in the heart of an old English college, Edward Williams receives an engraving of an unknown country house. An imposing facade. A sweeping lawn. And, just perhaps, something else…?

Laced with M. R. James’ trademark terror, The Mezzotint will guarantee a chill in the air for viewers this Christmas.

Rory Kinnear (Years & Years, No Time to Die) stars as Williams, alongside Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet, Downton Abbey) as Garwood, and Frances Barber (Doctor Who, Semi-Detached) as Mrs Ambrigail. The Mezzotint also stars John Hopkins (Poldark, Lucky Man), Emma Cunniffe (Roadkill, Unforgotten), Nikesh Patel (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Indian Summers), and Tommaso Di Vincenzo (Dracula).

The Mezzotint is the latest ghost story for Christmas from Mark Gatiss on the BBC, following Martin’s Close in 2019, The Dead Room in 2018, The Tractate Middoth in 2013, and Crooked House in 2008. All were a ratings hit, with Martin’s Close becoming BBC Four’s most watched programme of 2019, with 1.5 million viewers (30-day consolidated figure).

Mark Gatiss says: ‘It’s delightful to be bringing a little seasonal unease to the nation once again and this famous M. R. James story is just the ticket. We’ve assembled a top-notch team to bring this eerie mystery – and a certain enigmatic old picture – to life.’

Piers Wenger, Director of BBC Drama, says: ‘I’m delighted that Mark Gatiss has assembled such an outstanding cast to conjure up another unmissable ghost story for BBC Two and iPlayer this Christmas. The Mezzotint is classic M. R. James, and the perfect slice of horror to thrill us this festive season.’

About the panel

Mark Gatiss has had a long and varied career as a writer, director and producer behind the camera, as well as being a critically-acclaimed actor and published author.

His early success on television was as part of the comedy troupe The League of Gentlemen, for which he both wrote and appeared onscreen as various characters.

He had a childhood passion for Doctor Who and both wrote for and starred in the modern revival. He was also the writer and executive producer of An Adventure in Space and Time, a 90 minute dramatisation of the genesis of the series as part of the show’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2013.

Mark is the co-creator and executive producer of Sherlock, the hit BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman which has seen unprecedented global success and in which he also plays Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes. The show has won a total of nine Emmys and twelve BAFTAs across its four series.

Mark’s other writing credits for television include episodes of Nighty Night (2004 – 2005) Crooked House (2008), two episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, his adaptation of HG Wells’s The First Men in the Moon (2010) and all three episodes of the documentary series A History of Horror (2010) and its one-off sequel Horror Europa (2012), all of which he presented as well. Most recently he wrote and presented two art documentaries for BBC4 – one on John Minton and the other on Aubrey Beardsley.

In 2017, he curated and directed Queers – a series of eight monologues for BBC Four to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which saw the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality.

Recent acting roles include The Duke of Marlborough in the BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated The Favourite (2018), Disney’s Christopher Robin (2018), BBC One’s Gunpowder (2017), Wolf Hall (2015), Peter Mandelson in James Graham’s Coalition (2015) and Tycho Nestoris in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2014-2017). He recently starred opposite Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in the award-winning screen adaptation of Florian Zeller’s The Father. Upcoming movie roles include Mission Impossible 7 and Operation Mincemeat.

On stage, he has starred alongside Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus (2013), as Harold in Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band (2016) and as Doctor Shpigelsky in Patrick Marber’s adaptation of Turgenev’s Three Days in the Country for which he received the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In November 2018 he took the titular role in The Madness of George III at the Nottingham Playhouse – the best-selling show in the theatre’s history.

Most recently he co-created and executive produced the BBC and Netflix drama Dracula. In addition to The Mezzotint, for Christmas 2021 he has written and directed The Amazing Mr Blunden for Sky One, which he stars alongside Simon Callow and Tamsin Greig. He will also be starring as Jacob Marley in a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol which he has written for the Nottingham Playhouse and Alexandra Palace, due to open later this year.

Frances Barber is an award-winning actress whose work has combined leading roles in theatre, film & TV in the UK.

Seasons at The RSC, The National & London’s West End have seen her play a variety of parts in Shaw, Chekhov (Sonya in Uncle Vanya, for which she received her second Olivier Nomination and a TMA award for Best Actress), Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare and many contemporary playwrights. She created the leading role, Billie Trix, in the Pet Shop Boys’ musical, Closer to Heaven, for which she won a Best Actress in a Musical Award. She toured the US in 2007 in King Lear and The Seagull, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn, starring Sir Ian McKellen.

On film, she has worked with Mike Leigh, in Stephen Frears’ Prick Up Your Ears and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Peter Greenaway, John Irving, Tom Hooper and Kenneth Branagh amongst many others. On TV, she has played innumerable roles in drama series for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 & Sky. Recent credits include Whitstable Pearl for Acorn TV; The Chelsea Detective for Acorn/BBC TV; Dodger for NBCUniversal Studios/BBC and The Mezzotint for Can Do Productions/Adorable Media for BBC. Previous television credits include Semi-Detached for BBC Two; The Split for BBC One; The Queen and I for Sky; Father Brown and Mapp and Lucia for the BBC; Medici: Masters of Florence made by Lux Vide for Netflix and Psychobitches for Tiger Aspect. She played Kovarian in Dr Who and in Silk, the hard-hitting QC Caroline Warwick, for which she was nominated for a prestigious Silver Dagger Award. Her latest film credits include A Bird Flew In [Goldfinch Entertainment] and Trick or Treat in which she won the Best Actress Award, and the film took home Best Feature Film at the Marbella International Film Festival, 2019.

She played the title role in Phyllida Lloyd’s ground-breaking all female production of Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse which transferred to the St Ann’s Warehouse in New York. Recent theatre includes What the Butler Saw at the Mark Taper Forum, L.A; The School for Scandal at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York, Madame Rubinstein at the Park Theatre and An Ideal Husband at The Vaudeville Theatre. In 2019/2020 Frances enjoyed a sold-out run-In Edinburgh and then a transfer to Leicester Square Theatre of The Pet Shop Boys and Jonathan Harvey’s one woman show MUSIK, in which she reprised the role of Bille Trix, which was created for her in their musical Closer To Heaven. Frances was awarded Best Lead Performance in a Musical in the 2021 OFFIEs awards. Most recently Frances has completed a sell-out run as Polonius opposite Sir Ian McKellen’s Hamlet at Windsor Theatre Royal.

Robert Bathurst’s many series on television include Cold Feet, Toast of London, Downton Abbey, Joking Apart, Emma, Wild at Heart and My Dad’s The Prime Minister. Theatre performances in London and the UK include plays by Shaw, Shakespeare, Coward, Frayn, Ibsen, Chekhov, Wilde and Aphra Behn; he co-devised and produced Love, Loss & Chianti, a stage performance for two actors, musicians and cartoon animation based on narrative poems by Christopher Reid. He played the title role in Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. His reading of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels for MacMillan Audio won him the 2020 Audie Award for Best Male Narrator. This year he co-directed a film about jockeys, The Fall, which is currently available on SkySports. He writes for The Oldie magazine on showbiz and horseracing. In addition to The Mezzotint recent TV includes The Larkins (ITV), Munich – The Edge Of War (Netflix), Dr Who (BBC) and the new series of Toast of London (BBC).

Nikesh Patel is currently shooting The Devil’s Hour for Amazon. He was recently seen opposite Rose Matafeo in her new BBC Three/HBO Max series Starstruck, playing the lead role of ‘Tom Kapoor’, season 2 of which will be out soon. Before that he most recently starred as ‘Kash’ in Mindy Kaling’s ten-part Four Weddings and a Funeral for Hulu and played ‘Foaly’ in Disney feature Artemis Fowl, directed by Kenneth Branagh. Nikesh trained at the Guildhall School of Drama and was named as the 2010 Screen’s UK Stars of Tomorrow.

Matthew Sweet, Writer and Broadcaster is author of Inventing the Victorians (2001), Shepperton Babylon (2005) and The West End Front (2011). A familiar voice in British broadcasting, he presents Free Thinking and Sound of Cinema on BBC Radio 3 and The Philosopher’s Arms on BBC Radio 4. He has judged the Costa Book Award, edited The Woman in White for Penguin Classics and was Series Consultant on the Showtime/Sky Atlantic series Penny Dreadful. In the BBC2 drama An Adventure in Space and Time he played a moth from the planet Vortis. His fashion history column, The Line of Beauty, appears in 1843 magazine. His latest book, Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers and Themselves is published by Picador.

Director: Mark Gatiss
Producer: Isibeal Ballance
Adapted by: Mark Gatiss
Written by: M. R. James
Director of Photography: Kieran McGuigan
Production Designer: Bobbie Cousins
Costume Designer: Claire Finlay
Make-Up Designer: Claudia Cavalli
Composer: Blair Mowat

Rory Kinnear (Williams)
Robert Bathurst (Garwood)
Frances Barber (Mrs Ambrigail)
John Hopkins (Binks)
Emma Cunniffe (Mrs Filcher)
Nikesh Patel (Nisbet)
Tommaso Di Vincenzo (Gawdy)

UK 2021
30 mins

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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