From L to R: Anika Noni Rose as Mma Makutsi, Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe, Lucian Msamati as JLB Matekoni.
Apart from scrumptious chocolate eggs, there's another treat to look forward to this Easter: a 90-minute drama based on Alexander McCall-Smith's book The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which is set to be screened on BBC One around Easter (possibly on Easter Monday, although as far as I can work out the exact date hasn't been formally announced).
The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the first in a series of 9 books that chronicle the adventures of "traditionally built" Precious Ramotswe, the proprietor of the only female-owned detective agency in Botswana, and her assistant Grace Makutsi. They're not detective stories in the traditional sense of the word, as there are no murders and no serious assaults to deal with. Instead, the storylines evolve around human relationships and problems that can be solved over endless cups of red bush tea. They're the perfect "feel-good" read and have become very successful in the UK and (I believe) elsewhere in the world.
This first episode that's about to be screened was filmed entirely in Botswana. It was directed by Anthony Minghella, who won an Oscar for directing The English Patient, and was also nominated for writing the screenplay for The Talented Mr Ripley. Mma Ramotswe is played by double Grammy winning jazz and blues singer Jill Scott, and the screenplay has been co-written by Minghella and Richard Curtis, best known for Four Weddings and Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Joining Jill Scott on the series will be Dreamgirls star Anika Noni Rose in the role of Mma Makutsi. David Oyelowo (Danny from Spooks) also makes an appearance in the first episode, as philandering husband Kremlin Busang.
Many hate the idea of a favourite book being turned into a movie. I'm the exact opposite. I can't imagine anything better than the characters who have lived in the pages of a book coming to life on the big or smaller screen, particularly when care has been taken to remain true to the story's essense. With such a stardusted cast, I think we can expect a worthwhile result.
The author of the series Alexander McCall-Smith with Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe.
What's more, following the screening of the pilot episode at Easter, filming will begin for a 13-part television series jointly funded by the BBC and US television network HBO. Even more Mma Ramotse!
This month's Condé Nast Traveller magazine features an article by Anthony Minghella written while location scouting in Botswana. The pictures that accompany the article are exactly as you'd imagine Botswana to be from "listening" to Mma Ramotswe - simply stunning.
If you've not read the books yet, I can't recommend them highly enough. Eight of them are out in paperback and the latest one has just come out in hardback, so there's plenty to keep you busy. The order they come in is this:
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
I can't wait for Easter :-)