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"John is completely inexperienced with women and incredibly nervous about any kind of sexual contact." [1]

Richard Armitage in SparkhouseRichard Armitage's first major role on television was in the BBC drama Sparkhouse, shown in autumn 2003.

Sparkhouse is a passionate and fiery drama inspired by Wuthering Heights. It's not a straightforward modernisation of Emily Bronte's novel, but draws on characters and themes from that story. Carol Bolton (Sarah Smart) is the Heathcliff character, while Andrew Lawton (Joe McFadden) is the Cathy character.

Richard Armitage plays John Standring, a character with no direct equivalent in the book. It was his first big TV role, and after John Thornton, it's one of his most appealing and popular characters.

Sparkhouse was written by Sally Wainwright, who also wrote At Home with the Braithwaites, Jane Hall (both of which also starred Sarah Smart) and The Amazing Mrs Pritchard. She says, "I liked the idea of a young feisty woman at odds with the world. The violent nature of her character and the landscape reminded me of Heathcliff, and so the connection with Wuthering Heights came into play." [1]

Carol lives at run-down Sparkhouse Farm with her drunken, abusive father, Richard, and younger sister, Lisa. Across the valley live the middle-class Lawtons - Andrew, and his parents Paul and Kate. Carol and Andrew have been inseparable since childhood. At the beginning of the drama, they are 18 and passionately in love, a love that is raw, urgent and powerful. Carol is feisty and reckless, a young woman who is mistrusted and disliked by Andrew's parents who try to keep them apart. The only place they can be together is a ruined farmhouse up on the moors.

John Standring (Richard Armitage) works at Sparkhouse Farm. Loyal, hard-working, and painfully shy, he loves Carol. At first only a peripheral character, he gradually moves towards the centre of the drama.

The story covers approximately 5 years, and follows Carol and Andrew's attempts to be together in spite of numerous obstacles.

Sparkhouse is set in and around Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, not far from Haworth. It was filmed entirely on location at various places that are mostly within a few miles of Hebden Bridge and is very much rooted in the landscape of the Yorkshire moors.


BBC Sparkhouse website
Red Productions Sparkhouse website
Interview with writer Sally Wainwright on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour
BBC Sparkhouse press pack


[1] BBC Sparkhouse press pack

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