Life on BBC: Is Life based on a true story?

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BBC series Life kicked off recently and followed a group of neighbours living in the same building in Manchester yet going about very separate existences The show has been created by playwright Mike Bartlett, who is also behind Doctor Foster, Press and King Charles III, among many other programmes. But how much did the writer draw from his personal experience when penning Life?

Is Life based on a true story?

The opening episode of Life introduced audiences to the various characters including Gail Reynolds (played by Alison Steadman), who was taking a moment to reflect on turning 70.

Then there was university lecturer David Aston (Adrian Lester), who was going through a rough patch in his marriage, and yet his strong Christian beliefs and moral code meant he wanted to try his hardest to make the relationship work.

Belle Stone (Victoria Hamilton) – who is better known as Anna in Doctor Foster – was trying to put the pieces of her life back together following a divorce.

Finally, there was Hannah Taylor (Melissa Johns), who was expecting a baby after a one-night-stand.

She was now dating someone new as she planned to raise her child with her new beau and the father of the baby both involved.

Life will follow these characters in their day to day lives, including their friends and family.

While these stories will be ordinary, they are likely to strike a chord with viewers given how relatable they are.

To a degree, Life is based on real life with Bartlett drawing upon his own experiences of living in a house which had been split into flats.

He said he was intrigued by the idea of thin walls separating people from each other and the contrast of living so physically close to others yet being completely emotionally detached from them.

However, it seems this was just a jumping off point for Bartlett and is as far as the writer drew from real life.

Bartlett said the show was four years in the making with the writer wanting to do something different to Doctor Foster, which fell into a much darker vein.

He chose to set the series in Manchester because he wanted to a story outside of London.

Bartlett not only studied at Leeds, but he lived in Manchester for several years and felt the north had a different spirit compared to the capital.

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But he also felt Manchester had a different tone to it where “anything could happen”.

Speaking to media including Express.co.uk, Bartlett said: “Also, the other thing I wanted to write – because I’d written quite a lot of heavy things – so Doctor Foster goes to very dark places and this show goes to very dark places too.

“But what I was interested in and what I felt I hadn’t seen enough of was a show that allowed us to see the strength that people have, the goodness, the kindness – that really took a group of characters through the toughest stuff that everyone has to face in life and saw how they dealt with it.

“I think the show goes to very dark places, but I think it’s always got hopefully some humour, some redemption and some sort of hope going on as well.”

He added: “It’s totally about people trapped in their bubbles.

“That was a language we were talking about and the development of it, these people trapped in their own worlds, not able to reach each other and not able to have a connection. Of course, that’s the world we’re living in.”

Life promises to be at times heart-breaking and other moments joyful as viewers are taken on these stories across a spectrum of characters and situations.

Speaking about writing such a variety of characters, Bartlett reflected: “That is one of the benefits of having four strands in a show is you can show four different worlds, four different sets of people, people from different backgrounds.

“In this show, four different worlds which slowly start to come together, and I think that’s one of the joys of doing a show like this.

“They’re all different sorts of people and of course what one is thinking about constantly is making sure every character is truthful to who they are and their background.

“Some characters one writes quite easily and others you have to do quite a lot of research and a lot of conversations about it.”

He went on to say: “But walking in other people’s shoes is what I do. That’s the joy, I don’t want to write people like me.

“I want to write other sorts of people and discover that and that’s reaching out is absolutely what I love about it.”

Life airs on Tuesdays on BBC One at 9pm and is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now

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