Sheridan Smith stars in BBC One’s The Moorside, a new two-part drama about the public response to the disappearance of Yorkshire schoolgirl Shannon Matthews which airs next month.
Sheridan will be joined by Sian Brooke (who recently starred as Ophelia opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet) as friend and neighbour Natalie, Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley, The Syndicate) who will be playing Christine Freeman, and Gemma Whelan (Mapp And Lucia) as Karen Matthews.
Following Shannon’s disappearance from The Moorside Estate in Dewsbury, the police and community mount a frantic search. Despite their efforts, no trace of her can be found and within a few hours the police investigation takes on the scale of a murder enquiry. Emotional public appeals for information from her mother Karen Matthews amount to nothing, and the community, led by Julie Bushby (Sheridan Smith), stand by her and make extraordinary efforts of their own to find Shannon.
Despite the support, doubts are beginning to creep in for some regarding Karen’s behaviour. Friend and neighbour Natalie (Sian Brooke) struggles with her conscience as she becomes convinced that Karen knows more than she is revealing. Just as all hope is close to fading, Shannon is found alive. The wild celebrations of Julie and the community are rapidly cut short when they learn that Shannon was being held by a man known to Karen.
The Moorside gives a fresh perspective on a front page news story we all remember, focusing not on the crime itself but on the ordinary people caught up in events, going beneath the headlines to understand the lasting impact on the community that lived through it.
Sheridan Smith 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 explained, “This drama tells a story of people pulling together for the sake of a child. In a world where all too often our estates are written off, this drama challenges us to think again about this. We hope the drama will have something to say not only about this community, caught up in the events unfolding on their doorstep, but about our wider society too.”
Jeff Pope, Executive Producer at ITV Studios commented, “At the time, the country held its breath when Shannon went missing. When she was found, the people of Moorside led the celebrations. The committed and passionate search mounted by local people had seemed to sweep away all the clichés and prejudices about estates like Moorside. But when the truth about what had happened was revealed, the sense of betrayal and bitter recriminations that followed threatened to submerge the estate. This truthful, unvarnished drama will take us inside the eye of the storm.”
Controller of BBC One Charlotte Moore added, “Drama has the ability to tackle sensitive subjects from different perspectives and consider the impact of a crime rather than the crime itself. This was an extraordinary story of our time that rocked a community and thrust it under the media spotlight. As a nation, we only ever saw it from one perspective and I hope this drama will capture what it was like to be at the centre of that community – how they responded and lived through it. On BBC One it’s important to bring human stories to life and allow the audience to come to their own conclusions.”
Don’t miss the first episode of The Moorside on Tuesday 7th February at 9pm on BBC One.