Interview: Timothy Spall 'Even though he is a snot-ridden, farting monster, he is actually quiet, polite and decent'

Interview: Timothy Spall 'Even though he is a snot-ridden, farting monster, he is actually quiet, polite and decent'

Raymond Brigg's Fungus the Bogeyman comes to life this Christmas

Raymond Brigg's classic picture book is coming to the small screen. The story of a grouchy, grumpy denizen of Bogeydom who loves all things damp, dark and stinky and is horrified by the human's clean dry world. The book has been a quirky favourite since 1977 and Sky's three part live action / CGI mix does take a few liberties with the plot. However fans will be pleased to hear veteran character actor Timothy Spall takes on the title role (starring alongside Victoria Wood, Marc Warren, Keeley Hawes, Joanna Scanlan and Paul Kaye).

Spall tells us more …

How would you describe Fungus?
Even though he is a snot-ridden, farting monster, he is actually quiet, very polite and very decent. He is a sort of Edwardian character. Like a lot of Raymond Briggs’ characters, he has a sense of decency and of doing the right thing. He finds all his son’s revolutionary ideas disquieting because he believes in the idea that there is a place for everything and everything in its place.

What can you tell us about the plot?
It’s about the life of a Bogeyman who is having a mild existential crisis and is starting to doubt what he does a little. He lives down there, and then he comes up here and scares people. That’s his job. He does it with great politeness, not wickedness and has done it out of duty for hundreds of years. It’s a mutual relationship with the people on the surface, who the Bogeymen call 'Drycleaners' and they’re all happy with it.

So what changes?
We’ve introduced an element in which Fungus’s son Mould has been affected by the proliferation of information out there, he’s a victim of the information age. He’s become ‘Drycurious’ and absconds to the world above. He’s looked after by Eve [Wood], a woman who appears to be a friendly Drycleaner. Even though they know they’re breaking the law, Fungus and his beloved Bogeywife Mildew want Mould back, and so they go up to find him. But, unfortunately, they find themselves trapped Up Top …

Where do Fungus and Mildew end up?
They have to live in suburban Daventry, of all places. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water situation. They live next to Wendy and Daryl, a well-meaning couple who are going through an existential crisis of their own. They are typical suburban upwardly mobile people. They have had a series of bad neighbours and are somewhat suspicious of their new ones. But even though they have problems of their own, they’re very kind and understanding people.

Why do you think Fungus the Bogeyman will appeal at Christmas?
A four-year-old can sit next to an 80-year-old and they’ll both get a lot out of it. Obviously, one of the hardest things to crack is family entertainment. I think we’ve contemporised a classic children’s book, but at the same time we have captured the very strong flavour of a highly original book that has a uniquely British feel. I hope people will love it.

Even though the series has added new elements, do you think it remains faithful to the spirit of Raymond Briggs’ book?
Absolutely. We’ve taken a leap of faith and invented some new theatrical conceits but I think we’ve managed to maintain the flavour of the book and that subversive quality that Raymond Briggs does so beautifully.

Fungus the Bogeyman premieres on Sky 1, Sun 27 Dec, 6pm.

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