Cinderella (2007/8). Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta, writers. Hat Trick/BBC Northern Ireland Production for BBC One.
The second fairy tale in the BBC Fairy Tales anthology is Cinderella. Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta (Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at No 42) have chosen to update Cinderella. The original is thought to date back to ninth century China in which Yei-Hsien is helped by a ten-foot long fish, who proves every bit as capable as a fairy godmother, furnishing her with a dress made of kingfisher feathers and tiny gold shoes.
Richard and Anil have set their version in the world of anthropology, at a bustling university and asks the question: Who is really responsible for the evolution of the human race, man or woman?
"The story of Cinderella, which has been around for at least 2,000 years, addresses all the big fairy tale issues: oppression, injustice, and empowerment, oh, and getting dressed up in a fabulous outfit, obviously!" says Richard Pinto.
"Many would argue that it's the most famous of all fairy tales, so it was a daunting task to take something so well known and tell it in a new way, but I hope we've stayed true to the original spirit of the story.
"There was always an element of 'men versus women' in the original story (who's in charge of this relationship, Cinderella or the Prince?), we're just a bit more up front about it in our version," says Richard.
The delightful rom-com features the devilishly charismatic Professor Prince (James Nesbitt), who believes that the 'male of the species' is the reason we are all here today and university cleaner Cindy (Maxine Peake) who, despite her lack of academic education, is determined to prove him wrong.
Anil continues: "In our version Cindy is a cleaner at a university. She is deeply fascinated by anthropology, but despite being very bright and having a broad knowledge (self-taught) of the subject, she doesn't have the qualifications to pursue her dream of becoming an academic.
"She's kept in her place by two research students, Phoebe and Fenola (the ugly sisters), and the Head of the Anthropology department, Professor Brooks (the wicked stepmother).
"It looks like she's destined for a life below stairs, until the arrival at the university of Professor H Prince, a very modern academic, media savvy and photogenic, who's desperate to show the world his phallus..."
In terms of how they began research on their fairy tale, Richard adds:
"To understand what's really going on in fairy tales, to get to the root of the primal urges they describe, you have to revisit them all, from Hansel and Gretel to Rumpelstiltskin and back again. We also looked at the archaeological and anthropological debate surrounding the Great Leap Forward, a contentious period in human evolution when our ancestors suddenly became the dominant species on earth.
"Basically we still don't know why humans 'made it' and Neanderthals didn't, but we think it's either down to the feminine skills of language and communication, or the masculine skills of speed and agility. Basically the answer to this question is the ultimate answer to the battle of the sexes, who's best, men or women? This provides the bone of contention (bad pun, I know) between our two protagonists."