We’re way too young to remember the original 1970’s BBC television show Porridge (well, a few of us are anyway). Having said that we do know, of course, that it was a classic British sitcom (David Attenborough once called it ‘the greatest programme ever made’ don’t you know) and so we were really pleased to be asked to build a new version of the set for a return of the show.
The one-off special is part of the BBC’s new ‘landmark comedy season’ which plans to revisit a number of other iconic and much loved comedies including Are You Being Served and Up Pompeii!
The new episode is bang up-to-date and will feature the original lead character and ‘habitual criminal’ Norman Stanley Fletcher’s grandson (the new Fletch) doing a stretch of porridge for computer hacking.
The original show was set in a fictional Victorian prison called HMP Slade whereas the new sitcom is set in a far more modern prison. Naturally we can’t give too much away ahead of the transmission date but we can reveal that we used a lot of grey paint!
Working with production designer, Jo Sutherland, we built a partial double-decker set consisting of a recreation area, gym, visiting area, prison officers’ office and of course a large number of cells.
Made entirely from timber with a fully functional structural steel staircase the set build needed a very fast turnaround – 10 days in total for the full construction. It was a large set, taking two articulated lorries to move it from our premises in Oldham to the studio at Dock 10 at MediaCityUK.
As well as the main build we also painted the full set, including vinyl signage, provided LED lights in a variety of light boxes and created working props such as the colour coded lights for the sliding prison doors (green for open, red for closed).
After filming we collected and transported the set to our large, heated, fully secure, storage facilities where it will be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure until further notice.