The Sisters

Rosamund Pike, Rachael Stirling, Rory Kinnear and Joseph Mawle star in The Sisters, a compelling new two-part drama by William Ivory (Faith, A Thing Called Love, Common As Muck) for BBC Four.

Based on two novels by DH Lawrence – The Rainbow and Women In Love – which Lawrence originally intended to publish as one, Ivory has melded the books together in line with Lawrence’s original vision as part of BBC Four’s new Modern Love Season later this year, exploring love and sexuality in 20th-century literature.

The Sisters charts the lives and loves of two sisters, Ursula (Stirling) and Gudrun Brangwen (Pike), viewed chiefly through their relationships with two friends, Rupert Birkin (Rory Kinnear) and Gerald Crich (Mawle).

As the two relationships intensify the couples leave the Midlands and go abroad together, leading to conflict and tragedy.

Other key cast also includes: Saskia Reeves (Butterfly Kiss, Canoe Man, Luther), who plays Ursula’s and Gudrun’s mother, Anna, and Ben Daniels (Law & Order UK; The Passion) is Will, Anna’s husband.

William Ivory says: “DH Lawrence is an extraordinary writer. That he is still so revered and so reviled in equal measure is indicative of the passionate, unapologetic approach he brought to his work. You might like him, you might not – he didn’t really care.

“All that mattered to him was the relationship between himself and his subject – and trying to fashion a new and elemental way of expressing that relationship, of redefining the link between experience and the recounting of experience.

“In order to adapt the two novels, I’ve attempted to achieve a similar thing… to lay out the soul of the books in a way which is new and fresh and which delivers the experience of being in the books.

“To do that, I’ve tried to understand the collective consciousness which binds the novels together and then tried to put that on screen.

“One is left with, I believe, a rich and visceral experience which gets to the very core of what was to Lawrence, life’s central mystery: how might one exist outside of the mind and consciousness – only sensuously.”

Producer Mark Pybus adds: “DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Women In Love have never been combined as a single television event before and this will very much be Billy Ivory’s unique take on his fellow Nottingham writer.

“Taking the two books together will allow Billy to tell a larger story, covering not just the relationships between men and women, but also the brutal impact of the First World War in transforming a rural community into 20th-century modernity.

“The whole area of sex and sexual relations is at the root of both novels: what we do, with whom, and why … that was what Lawrence was trying to fathom – questions (and answers) which are as valid today as ever.”

The Sisters is a Company Pictures production for BBC Four. The executive producers are George Faber, Charlie Pattinson and William Ivory.

The producer is Mark Pybus and the director is Miranda Bowen (Cast Offs). The executive producer for the BBC is Polly Hill.

Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, says:”There’s nothing like love to bring out strong emotions in people, and writing about love has always attracted the best novellists.

“Novellists writing in the 20 century were reflecting a century of enormous social change, and one of the most complex and profound was that of relationships between men and women. DH Lawrence is at the forefront of those writers.

“I am delighted that some of Britain’s finest actors are coming together to express and perform Billy’s powerful and gripping adaptation, as part of BBC Four’s Modern Love Season.”

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