Written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff, BBC Two’s Dancing on the Edge is an explosive drama set in the early 1930s following a black jazz band in London at a time of extraordinary change.
The five-part series stars Angel Coulby (Merlin), Anthony Head (Merlin), Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Shadow Line), Matthew Goode (Watchmen), Jacqueline Bisset (The Deep), Janet Montgomery (Black Swan), Joanna Vanderham (Young Herriot), Tom Hughes (Silk), Caroline Quentin (Life Of Riley), Jane Asher (Holby City) and Wunmi Mosaku (The Body Farm).
Monday 4 February 2013, 9pm
Music journalist Stanley befriends The Louis Lester Band and helps their rise to fame, from playing in a basement jazz club to the illustrious Imperial Hotel. At first, the hotel’s elderly audience treats the band with hostility, most of whom have never heard jazz music nor seen black musicians before. However, one table of young aristocrats love their new music and invite them to play at a garden party. Louis Lester, the band’s pianist, is particularly taken with Sarah, a young photographer. Stanley flirts with Pamela, a beautiful society girl. The partygoers watch with amazement as Prince George, the Duke of Kent, flirts with the two singers Jessie and Carla, and even plays the drums along with the band.
The band are loudly awoken one night by the police, they didn’t sign in that week to the Alien Registration Office, and deportation threatens. Luckily Stanley comes to the rescue just in time.
The band and their new friends are invited on a magical train journey, all courtesy of wealthy businessman Mr Masterson. Pamela and Stanley continue their flirtations on the train and begin a passionate affair. Only Wesley, the band’s manager, becomes a disruptive presence when he starts an argument over contracts. Wesley’s aggressive attitude doesn’t go unnoticed by the hotel management, and as the band’s popularity rises, Wesley is deported at the very moment Louis is leading a special concert for the Prince of Wales.
Tuesday 5 February 2013, 9pm
The Louis Lester band have yet to reach the fame they so desire, and are stuck playing children’s birthday parties at the Imperial Ballroom. Louis is frustrated. However, they are introduced to wealthy recluse Lady Lavinia Cremone, and she may be able to change their fortunes. She arranges a special performance for them to play in front of Prince George and invites a producer from the BBC and a record company executive. Finally, they are able to make their first record; it is played on the wireless and the band becomes a huge sensation.
Aristocrat Julian is really taken with singer Jessie and takes her out for a spin in a brand new car. She is impressed and delighted at all the attention she is getting.
The band are invited to play for the Prince of Wales and the Royal Air Force at an RAF dinner, a huge event. Jessie pretends she can’t go as she isn’t feeling well, when really Julian has promised to introduce her to a Hollywood film producer. Carla manages to overcome her nerves and sings wonderfully by herself. After the concert Louis dashes back to the London hotel and finds Jessie lying in a cupboard, bleeding. She has been viciously attacked.
Monday 11 February 2013, 9pm
The band and their friends are devastated by Jessie’s hospitalisation, and take turns to visit her. Louis is interviewed by police about events on the night of Jessie’s attack, and he tells them that he saw Julian when he should have been on a train to Paris. The band have to be persuaded to play without Jessie for the Imperial Hotel’s Christmas lunch and they are unsettled when a table of racist Germans walks out during the performance. But the mood is lifted when news arrives that Jessie has woken from her coma.
For New Year’s Eve, Lady Cremone holds a party on her estate. Everybody is surprised when Julian turns up, announcing he has been in France exploring a new business idea. The group goes into the village to hear the New Year announced on a loudspeaker, and there is a joyous and romantic mood.
In the middle of the party, Louis confides to Sarah that he saw Julian at the hotel the night of Jessie’s attack. Stanley exacts revenge on the racists by smuggling in Louis to play at a German Embassy party. The prank goes brilliantly, but the friends’ joy soon turns to tears when tragedy strikes.
Monday 18 February 2013, 9pm
After the band play at the funeral and Mr Masterson holds a wake, the police intrerrupt Louis and Sarah in her bedroom. He is subjected to intense questioning at the police station, which results in him becoming confused about what he saw on the night of the murder.
The band plays for the Freemasons dinner at the Imperial Hotel, during which Louis discovers that Julian’s alibi has been provided by a fellow Mason. He is overwhelmed by a sense of the power of the elite club he is about to be in conflict with. Masterson acquires the Music Express magazine, with Lady Cremone’s involvement, and makes Stanley the editor in chief. He takes the friends to a huge building which will be the new premises and offers Sarah a photography job. Stanley is thrilled, but Louis is concerned by how influential Masterson has become.
Louis realises that he is on the verge of becoming a suspect in the murder case, so Sarah takes him to Donaldson’s house in order to find him a lawyer. Exhausted from the hallucinatory night before, Louis drifts off to sleep in the kitchen. When he wakes, there is no sign of the lawyer and he can hear the police coming.
Monday 25 February 2013, 9pm
Louis can no longer hide out at the Music Express Office so Stanley takes him to a suburban flat to escape the manhunt. He is to wait until nightfall, whilst Stanley goes to find his passport as they plan his escape out of the country.
Stanley returns to the Imperial Hotel, to find that it’s reputation has been badly affected by the murder there.
Masterson takes over the new Music Express magazine, and surprises Stanley by announcing he has offered a large reward for the capture of Louis Lester.
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