How to watch The Change online
Six-part comedy drama The Change live streams via Channel 4’s on-demand service. You can binge the entire series now with a Channel 4 Plus subscription, or watch individual episodes when they’re broadcast each week. Currently away from the UK? A VPN will let you you stream Channel 4 from anywhere.
|Date and Time: Wednesday, June 21 at 10pm BST|
|TV Channel: Channel 4|
|Watch free: on Channel 4 with a valid TV license|
|Use ExpressVPN to stream 100% risk-free from anywhere|
Why you should watch The Change
Comedian Bridget Christie becomes TV’s next menopausal superhero – second only to The Hulk – in this hilarious comedy-drama series from Channel 4. Starring, written by, and produced by Christie, she plays a middle-aged suburban housewife who absconds to the magical Forest of Dean after discovering that she’s going through "the change".
It begins with a procession of symptoms at her 50th birthday party – hot flashes, irritability, and forgetting what a cake shovel is called. So, she goes to her GP convinced that she’s got early onset dementia. The more benign and ordinary reality, however, is that she’s simply beginning the menopause.
After a lifetime of domestic grunt work and feeling unseen by her family, among them slovenly husband Steve (Omi Djalili), the revelation prompts ride her old Triumph motorcycle down to the Forest of Dean and retrieve a time capsule from her childhood. As she explains to barfly Tony (Paul Whitehouse), "I’ve spent most of my life putting other people’s feelings before my own. I’m not going to do that for a bit, and it feels great."
The Change features a plethora of eccentric characters played by a wealth of UK TV talent. In addition to Christie, Djalili, and Whitehouse, the show features Jim Howick (Peep Show, Ghosts), Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), Liza Tarbuck (Upstart Crow), Ashley McGuire as one of the Eel Sisters, and Motherland's Tanya Moodie as DJ Joy, all of whom eventually band together to save the forest from redevelopment.
Read our guide below for how to watch The Change online and stream all 6 episodes absolutely FREE now.
How to watch The Change online for FREE in the UK
New comedy The Change debuts on Channel 4 from Wednesday, June 21 at 10pm BST. It’s completely free to watch live or on-demand through the Channel 4 streaming service – although you should have a valid TV license – and new episodes are available on a weekly basis.
If you don’t want to wait, however, then you could binge all 6 episodes with a Channel 4 Plus subscription. It costs £3.99 a month and offers ad-free streaming, in addition to Early Access to hit TV shows. But before you pay a thing, you can try it out with its 14-day free trial.
The Channel 4 streaming service is available on your laptop, or via apps for the likes of Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox, Roku and Amazon Fire.
Outside the UK? To access your preferred streaming service from abroad, you'll need to download a good VPN, as detailed below.
How to watch The Change online outside your country
If you’re keen to watch The Change online but are off on holiday or abroad for business, you’ll likely encounter annoying geo-restrictions that prevent you from accessing your usual streaming service.
Luckily, getting the best VPN – otherwise known as a virtual private network – offers a simple solution. It alters your IP address to make it appear like you’re somewhere else. While this can be used for privacy, it can also be used to access your preferred streaming platform back home, even when you're out of the country.
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How to use a VPN to watch The Change
Three simple steps to using a VPN to watch The Change online:
1. Download and install a VPN - we recommend ExpressVPN
2. Connect to the relevant server location - launch the VPN app, click on 'choose location' and select the right location i.e. UK for Channel 4
3. Head to the chosen broadcaster's live stream - in this case, head to the Channel 4 website or app
The Change cast and characters
- Bridget Christie interview (Linda)
- Susan Lynch interview (Agnes)
- Tanya Moodie interview (Joy)
- Jerome Flynn interview (Pig Man)
- Liza Tarbuck interview (Siobhan)
- Paul Whitehouse interview (Tony)
- Monica Dolan interview (Carmel)
- Jim Howick interview (The Verderer)
- Omid Djalili interview (Steve)
The Change full episode guide
The Change Episode 1
Linda, a 50-year-old, married mother of two, is convinced she’s got early onset dementia after forgetting what a shoe is called. But when her GP tells her it is, in fact, the menopause, she feels invigorated and empowered by this information and decides to claw back some of the time she’s spent doing ‘invisible work’ over the years and do something for herself for a change.
Dusting off her old Triumph, she heads to the Forest of Dean to find a time capsule she hid in a tree as a child, in an attempt to reconnect with the person that she used to be.
The first people she meets are the formidable Eel Sisters, who run the Eel Café and who are adored by the men of the town. They reluctantly agree to let Linda rent their caravan on the agreement that she cleans it up first. Ironically, Linda is already cleaning, but this time she’s doing it on her own terms, and for herself.
The Change Episode 2
In the hunt for her childhood time capsule, Linda discovers that the forest community is a far cry from the world she’s left behind, from the eccentric Eel Sisters, and a man who lives in the woods with the wild boar, to the outspoken Verderer, local disaffected teen Ryan and artist and DJ Joy.
Linda heads off into the forest in search of her time capsule which she hid up an old oak tree 40 years ago – armed only with an OS map and a prayer to St Anthony. But her prayers are answered more quickly than she expected.
The moment is soon broken by the arrival of ‘Pig Man’ (as he’s known to his friends). A reclusive figure who lives a solitary, self-sufficient life in the forest with only the wild boar for company, Pig Man gave up a job in the city after a devastating life event and now lives a frugal life off-grid with frothy coffee being his only extravagance.
But it turns out Linda might not be the only person with secrets…
The Change Episode 3
The town is busy preparing for the annual Town Meeting – a highlight of the year and even more pressing this year with the Eel Sisters announcing that this year’s Eel Festival will be led by an Eel Queen rather than the traditional Eel King – news that is dividing the town as much as the threat of developers building over parts of the forest.
But with her tree found and the time capsule missing, Linda starts to question whether it’s time to return home. A hunt for a leaving present for Pig Man finds her stumbling upon some feminist literature in the charity shop, and she is astounded to find that Simone de Beauvoir’s words chime with her own experience of the futility of housework. When she discovers an eviction notice on Pig Man’s cave, she hurries to the Town Meeting.
Realising that her beloved forest is under threat gives Linda a renewed sense of purpose and a place in the community.
The Change Episode 4
Linda receives some unexpected and emotional information from Pig Man, and an explosive visit from her sister Siobhan. Long-supressed frustrations bubble up between the sisters, and Linda finds herself finally taking a stand against the domineering Siobhan.
The Eel Sisters take matters into their own hands with the proposed development through the forest, buying the community some time. The Verderer, meanwhile, is taking no chances and has decamped to the beloved oak tree to keep the developers at bay for as long as he can.
Ryan makes a big decision about his unexpected inheritance, and the Eel sisters now turn their attention to the forthcoming Eel Festival and who they will crown the inaugural Eel Queen.
The Change Episode 5
It’s Festival Eve and Linda, Joy, Carmel and Agnes are putting the final preparations into place. Spirits are high and the four women bond over their shared experiences of the female experience for the first time. Linda is thrilled and moved to be invited to take part and be privy to these women’s secrets – some more shocking than others. It’s only tainted by Linda’s inner turmoil about lying to these women who have quickly become her friends.
The Change Episode 6
It’s the day of the annual Eel Festival – reclaimed this year by the Eel Sisters as a celebration of what it means to be a woman, with puberty, the menopause and rebirth at the centre of the festivities.
It’s beautiful and Linda has never felt so seen, and so much part of a community before, but the harmony is about to be broken…
Q&A with Bridget Christie ( Linda)
Bridget, you star as Linda, but you also wrote and produced the series. What was your original vision for The Change?
I wanted to create a show with an ordinary, relatable story at its heart, but place it in an extraordinary setting, to capture the mundanity of our day to day lives but also the magic and beauty all around us that we miss because we’re too busy to notice. So, we have two contrasting worlds - one of grey, suburban domesticity and the other of vivid, rural community life. I spent a lot of time as a child in the 1970s in the Forest of Dean, not far from where I grew up in Gloucester, and it holds a very special place in my heart. It’s a unique part of the world, both in terms of its outstanding natural beauty but also in that it has a very specific identity – one that is very hard for people to understand unless they’ve been there. It hasn’t been gentrified because of its transport links and it hasn’t been overdeveloped because of strict planning laws, so it has this timeless quality to it. Also, as a child, it always felt a little bit American to me, partly because of the majestic pine and redwoods, but also because of the way people dressed - men would be wearing checked shirts and baseball caps or cowboy hats, and I always remember an old Chevy parked up somewhere. This is why The Change has that slightly Americana feel to it, whilst at the same time being quintessentially British. I’ve tried to take my childhood memories of a specific time and place and put them on screen. I took a lot of inspiration from films of that era, like Deliverance and The Deer Hunter, where the sense of place and community is so integral to the story, where you think of the landscape not just as a location, but as a character too. We used particular lenses and colour palette and shot it in a certain ratio to give it that cinematic quality. I wanted to make people feel nostalgic but to not know why. Basically, the show is a love letter to the Forest of Dean and to women, borne out of my childhood memories.
In your most recent stand-up show, Who Am I? you discussed the fact that there aren't enough menopausal characters on TV, and that menopause isn't discussed enough in mainstream culture. Why do we need more menopausal characters?
Menopause is huge. Every single woman on the planet will go through it. Every single person on the planet will, by association, be affected by it, whether it’s your mother, wife, daughter, sister, niece, auntie, whoever, and so it seems absurd we’re not seeing many female characters going through it. A huge part of us has been erased. When it happened to me, I didn’t know my symptoms were caused by the menopause. I’ve got five older sisters and I never talked to them about theirs. My mum had a very difficult, never-ending menopause but we only talked about it on a very superficial level I never asked her how she felt or if I could help in any way. I wasn’t as empathetic or as supportive as I could or should have been and I regret that. In lockdown I started looking at every older woman I saw out and about and thinking: Did you go through it by yourself? Did you talk to anybody? Did you have to give up work? Did your family support you? I felt an overwhelming sadness, imagining them battling through it alone, perhaps embarrassed or humiliated at work, or ignored by their families, but I also felt angry. Of course, there will be manywomen who go through menopause with love and support from their families and friends and colleagues, but many won’t. I’d like that to change. Talking about it more openly, both privately and publicly and seeing ourselves on screen can only help. It was important to me that Linda took control of her menopause and used it as a catalyst to change her life in a positive way, because I think the menopause is generally seen as a negative thing, , and while a lot of women will struggle, many won’t, and we need to see more of that. We need to stop fearing it and give young women the knowledge and tools to handle it better than previous generations. It is changing… Davina McCall’s documentary made a huge difference in terms of public awareness, there are campaigns now and lobbying for policy changes for menopausal women in the workplace and better access to HRT but there’s still a way to go.
How will The Change help to fill that space?
Our protagonist is a menopausal woman who takes back control of her life and goes off on a journey of self-discovery. We are seeing more and more older women in lead roles and that’s obviously fantastic but there’s still a way to go – but the menopause is never written into those storylines. We don’t often see them having symptoms or talking to other female characters or their partners or work colleagues about it. So, while it’s great we’re seeing more and more older women taking these central parts, a big part of them has been erased. The menopause is still this invisible thing on screen, and when it is written into a storyline, it’s not usually done as explicitly as it is here, where it’s at the heart of the story.
How much has your own life and your experience of the menopause fed into the writing of the show?
I had the same menopause symptoms as Linda but in terms of my own life, not much of it bled into the show. I did go to the Forest of Dean as a child, I do ride a motorbike and I do have two children, but all my sisters are lovely and I have a job that I love and find very fulfilling, so I never felt like I’d lost my path in life or my identity. I am very lucky in that sense. Most people don’t have jobs that they enjoy and find themselves in middle-age having lost sight of who they are and their sense of purpose. I do wish I’d started writing a chore ledger years ago, but I only thought about it when I started writing the show!
Tell us about creating the different characters. Who did you have most fun writing, and which character was most challenging to write?
It was an absolute joy creating and writing all the characters. The Change is the first comedy drama I’ve written. I’m a stand up and so I’ve only ever really written for myself, so I found it hugely creatively satisfying, getting inside their heads and thinking about what they’d say and do. None of the characters are based on real people so I felt I could really make them say anything and it was joyful when it came to casting them all. And what a cast, my God! I have to say all the characters were fun to write, and I genuinely don’t have a favourite, but because Tony (Paul Whitehouse) and the Verderer (Jim Howick) are the most extreme characters, who say the most extreme things, I did have a lot of fun coming up with terrible things for them to say. I felt like I really got to know all the characters well and found it so interesting when something I’d written for them just wasn’t right. You immediately know when it’s wrong when they just wouldn’t say something like that. It’s almost like you have a duty not to misrepresent them. Fascinating process. I also found it interesting how some characters were better suited for carrying big storylines and others were better on the periphery and dropped in and out when needed. I would say Linda was the most challenging to write as she has to carry the show whilst not overshadowing everyone else, be believable but also funny, go through various stages of development, ride a motorbike, quickly, over uneven forest tracks, be dunked underwater, wear a massive headdress and cloak in boiling hot weather and be dragged out of a caravan, kicking and screaming.
When it came to casting the stars of the show, alongside you playing Linda, the characters of Joy, Agnes and Carmel are all played by women around 50. Why was it crucial that both the stars and characters are women of this age? Is it rare to find that on TV?
It was really important to me that Linda, and all the female characters in the show, were women over 50 played by actors over 50, because we don’t often see that, and we should. When I think about all of the most impressive people I know, both personally and publicly, they are increasingly women over 50 and I just think that should be reflected on screen more. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It isn’t difficult to find inspiration! And why are women still being cast in parts that are either much younger or much older than them? Infuriating.
Characters in the show are brought together in the fight to protect nature. Tell us about the environmental themes in The Change and why you wanted this to be a facet of the story?
Climate change is the biggest threat we are facing, and the more we can talk about that the better. It’s easy for us to think that we as individuals can’t make any difference, that it’s hopeless and we’re out of time, but we must have hope. We can make a difference. We can change our diets, our lifestyles, we can buy products that don’t harm animals or the environment, we can join marches and protests, we can make art and we can TALK about it. I’m lucky enough to be a writer/performer with a platform and it seems a huge waste not to use it for the greater good. I’ve been so inspired by human stories of individual bravery, both local to where I live in Hackney and of those up and down the country, people standing up for what they believe in, people just wanting to protect our planet for future generations. I wanted to show how passionate and angry people are about the destruction we are causing - cutting down our ancient forests and woodlands, polluting our rivers and seas, investing in fossil fuels, the list just goes on and on. Human emotion can be a very powerful thing. I don’t believe this government, or the majority of the British media are doing their bit. The message isn’t getting through, but stories can. Stories are what connect us, stories have the power to change hearts and minds. I hope mine does. In some small way. The series culminates with the Eel Festival – a local tradition where the forest people come together to celebrate. After years of Eel Kings, Linda becomes the first Eel Queen, and the festivalgoers celebrate the different stages of a woman’s life, repeating the mantra: ‘May all your transitions be joyful!’.
Tell us about the ideas behind the festival itself and why you wanted to depict the community coming together to celebrate the life journey of women?
I always wanted to end the series with a folk festival. I just didn’t know what it would look like. Eels were the obvious thing to use as they are such a big part of the community, but I also wanted the festival to be a celebration of women – and I struggled for a long time to find that connection - between eels and women, but then I found out about the bizarre life cycle of eels – they are all born in the Sargasso Sea, and they only choose what gender to be when they decide to return to the Sargasso Sea to reproduce and die. So, I had the idea that we could mark the biological stages of a woman’s life. So, we have puberty, menopause, and rebirth, when she finally returns to her true self. The stations idea came from my Catholic upbringing and the Good Friday tradition of the Stations of the Cross, where the journey of Jesus’s crucifixion is depicted in a series of images. I always found it very powerful and profound and thought it would be a good way of depicting the burden of womanhood. I also wanted it to be very female led as historically, women haven’t been a big part of our folk festivals and rituals, they’ve tended to be very male dominated and patriarchal, so it was important to me that women were at the heart of the Eel Festival, not just in terms of the themes, but also in the imagery, so we have an Eel Queen and female Morris dancers.
British folklore and folk music are an important part of the look and feel of the series.
Tell us how you wove these themes into The Change?
During lockdown, I suddenly realised how much I loved my country. How rich in history and culture it is, how beautiful our landscape is, and how great as a people we can be. I felt very patriotic, and I realised that since Brexit, being patriotic is seen as a bad thing and I wanted to reclaim it. Weaving British folklore and folk music into the show seemed like the best way of doing that. Brexit was a disaster for this country. It tore families apart and divided communities. I’m not sure we’ve fully recovered from that, and it still makes me furious, but our festivals give us an opportunity to forget about our differences. I love the fact that on certain days of the year, up and down the country, we dress up in mad costumes, put bells on our ankles, get the fiddles out, drink warm bitter, and celebrate this magical land of ours.
Do you have a favourite scene?
No! The town hall meeting maybe? The baptism? Honestly, I don’t think I can pick a favourite.
This is your first time writing and starring in your own TV series. How have you found it, and what are your highlights from this whole experience?
I’ve found it the most professionally rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Getting a TV show off the ground is one of the most arduous, difficult things to do in this industry. There are so few slots and so many of us and the process is very, very long, but I have genuinely loved every minute of it. I’ve been very lucky with my executive producers at Expectation (Nerys Evans, who was there right from the beginning, many years ago, and the show would be rubbish without Morwenna Gordon who was with me on the scripts night and day) and with Channel 4 who gave great feedback as well as the creative freedom to realise my vision for the show. It’s been genuinely life-affirming. I don’t think I could pick a highlight to be honest but filming with my beautiful cast and crew and then seeing the final episodes, all scored and graded was a very special moment.
You talked about your original vision for story and the look and feel of this series. Is the final product what you'd always hoped it would be?
What do you hope viewers will take away from The Change?
I hope the themes of the show resonate with people and I hope they finish the series with hope in their hearts and fire in their bellies. That they feel inspired to make changes in their own lives and I hope there is a household chore revolution!
Q&A with Jerome Flynn (Pig Man)
How did you get involved in The Change?
When the script first came to me, as is my wont, I was distracted by many things in my life back home in Wales. I didn’t really take in the essence of the story Bridget was trying to tell. And I wasn’t sure about the character, there was some nervousness about him being called Pig Man! So, I was initially reluctant to take it seriously and give time to it. Then Bridget wrote me a very beautiful letter, and I could really feel her heart in it. It made me go back to the script and I started to get a sense of the vision that had been burning inside her for so many years, which was so embedded in her own journey, and well, it touched me. I felt an affinity with her longing if you like, this shared yearning to reconnect with the indigenous way of life that we have strayed so far from.
Bridget’s letter got me back on track and I said: I’m going to do this. So, I jumped.
In the series, you play Pig Man, a former banker who suffered a personal loss and now lives off the grid in the Forest of Dean, protecting the wild boar who live there. As you learned more about the character, what did you think of Pig Man and how would you describe him to someone who hasn’t yet seen the show?
I've never worked in the city, but I related to his journey profoundly. He sees the emptiness of that lifestyle, and I saw a lot of myself in him. He’s a man who became disillusioned with the culture we have been born into in the west, where personal gain , making it in the world in order to have the things you think you need to be happy , well it’s a culture that I believe has increasingly disconnected us from our environment , from our own innate native wisdom,, from all the beings seen and unseen that we share this miraculous creation event with. His heart was broken, and he chose to go back into the forest and pour the love that he had lost into another family, the wild boars that roam the forest of dean. He channels his grief into caring for these creatures in the forest, but it’s more than that. My sense is that part of the authentic masculinity that we’ve strayed from is the impulse to protect and nurture life. Suddenly he hasn't got his own family to protect, he reads an article about the pigs being culled, and he’s gone there to protect them. I really connected with that. He also saw a chance to live in the forest and return to the natural world. He is living with this immense grief, and I think he intuitively knows that returning to a more intimate connection with nature is the best way to accept and allow the grief to have its way with him. Our culture very much tends to sweep grief and mortality under the table, but for me, being real about the impermanence of all life, is a crucial part of living fully, of experiencing and valuing our every moment. I feel Pig Man is seeking true value.
Pig Man has dedicated his life to protecting the forest and its animals – you’ve long been an outspoken animal advocate, did this element of his story resonate with you?
In the last three years, a lot of the work that I’ve done for animal welfare was focused on the horrendous treatment of pigs. I fronted a documentary on Netflix called Hogwood and have recently been part of a campaign highlighting how our 90% of our pigs die in a horrendous way. For one of the protests, organised by Farms Not Factories, I got in a cage, in Oxford Circus, in the middle of the traffic. It was the size of a cage that the majority of our pigs spend their lives in, and we were raising awareness of this inhumane treatment. I even had some pretend piglets in there with me. So, it’s very bizarre – Bridget didn’t know anything about that when she asked me to take on the role of Pig Man. She’s picked up on something, so I thought, OK, I’m supposed to play this part.
Pig Man’s home and his initial meeting with Linda are filmed in the Forest of Dean. Did being on location help you connect with his story?
We wouldn't have been able to tell the story if we weren’t in the forest. It’s a completely natural backdrop, so being immersed in the real thing, and all the magic that a forest holds, rather than a studio or a set, well it was perfect. Something special happens when you’re in a forest. I obviously love nature. I was brought up in the country and I've been lucky enough to be able to move away from London and come back to that connection. It was magical to be in the forest and also it was during the really extreme heatwave last year, so the forest and its shade was the perfect place to be.
There is a very strong environmental storyline throughout the whole series as the character’s come together to protect the forest. How did you feel about that and what message do you hope viewers might take from it?
It’s inherent in Bridget’s journey and the journey that Linda, her character, has taken. If we lose our connection with the land we were born from and on, well the consequences of that are pretty huge to say the least, and we are of course now living in the midst of them – we have lost touch with the natural balance of things, and our part in that balance. At the heart of the story, it’s asking us to return, to remember, to reconnect with beings other than human. Every other plant and animal works within the natural balance of things, whereas we’ve been moving further and further away from that innate knowledge and wisdom. Thankfully, there are still indigenous cultures with that knowledge that haven’t been wiped out. Unless we realise that and take heed of that wisdom, then I think we know that we are in for a very rough ride, I mean it already feels heart-breaking what we are doing to our ecosystems, to each other, and to our beloved animals. We’re at a tipping point right now and a lot rests on it. Also personally, I don’t think we can experience a true joy of being, without reclaiming our innate human identity as not separate from all of nature.
Menopause is another strong theme in the series, as Linda’s adventure is sparked by the start of the menopause. What did you think of this thread?
Well, it was courageous and honest of Bridget to tell that story, and culturally important because so many women I'm sure will relate to it. And again, I think it connects back to how we have drifted away from our more natural, communal heritage. In many indigenous cultures, my understanding is that menopause is respected as a very important passage in a woman’s life as she moves into eldership, and often development of her shamanic wisdom. That’s something else we’ve forgotten – the importance of elders in our communities, how crucial that relationship is for the young ones as they find their way in the world, and for the adults approaching their own eldership (which basically means all of us). For the most part we have severed that precious lineage of lived experience and wisdom passed down through the generations.
So, when Linda’s menopause comes, it’s very natural for her to be like: I need to go back to where I felt my own connection to nature, when I felt most alive. Our image based, death denying culture, where 70 is the new 50 kind of thing almost shuns menopause rather than respecting it for its deeper value, as we strive to stretch our youthfulness into new realms.
You mentioned that Pig Man once sought value and masculinity in the world of finance and material objects, but that his concepts of value and masculinity changed after a personal tragedy. In The Change, he is the most obviously positive male figure in the show. Is that something that came across to you and how do you think he is differentiated from some of the other men in the series?
I do think he’s a positive male role model. The crisis he experienced brought him to make this change, as is often the gift of crisis. So, for him it’s an initiation of sorts. The other guys to different extents perhaps still identify more with our white material culture’s distorted idea of masculinity, of what it means to be successful, to fit in and make it in what is in many ways a life destructive culture. So yes, I think Pig Man has rejected that whole conceit that we are sold of what it is to be a man.
Aesthetically, Pig Man is different too, he has a very distinct style.
Tell us about the outfits you wore during filming and how they reflected Pig Man’s lifestyle?
I was pleased how it ended up – it’s quite Raiders of the Lost Ark and I like that! You could say he's on a sort of a journey of exploration back to who he truly is, and that’s a very holy grail. I was really pleased with his outfits. It was such a hot summer and he had cut-off shirts, thank God. It’s practical as well – he’s got lots of little gizmos and horns and whistles to call his pigs, then combat trousers and a jacket a bit like my dad used to wear. He likes to be barefoot when he can as well, which is nice because he gets to connect directly with the earth’s energy.
Do you have a favourite Pig Man scene from the series?
I think it’s the first scene, when he turns up and finds Linda up that tree. It was such a lovely scene to shoot. Bridget was making me laugh and it was very sweet. There was a connection happening there.
We talked about a few of the wider messages running through the series. What do you hope viewers will take away from The Change as a whole series?
I hope they take away the importance of connecting with our authentic human nature as not separate from the natural world, as part of the interconnected web of life that we could not be separate from. The importance of relationships – with nature and with each other – and the value of true relationships where we don’t have to pretend that we’re anybody other than who we are. It’s about coming back to our relationship with nature, but also our kinship with each other, beyond just our families, intimacy with our community, and a deeper sense of what it is to truly belong. This is the journey Linda takes us on, and in many ways, I’d say it's likely the most important journey for us all to take right now.
Q&A with Paul Whitehouse (Tony)
You play Tony, a local to the Forest of Dean town that our main character Linda finds herself in on her quest for self-discovery. He’s well-known locally but holds some outdated ideas. Tell us how you got involved in this project?
I'm big fan of Bridget and it's about time that she was given the recognition she’s getting. I was pleased to be part of it. When Bridget sent me the part of Tony, I thought he was such a good character, because he’s so un-right on. Bridget’s the poster girl for a particular brand of comedy but she’d written a character who was so not that. What I love about Bridget’s writing is that it’s not judgemental. The character is a pain in the arse and could’ve been intimidating, except the way she presents it is she’s the tough guy and I’m all front. She sees a kernel of compassion in the guy that’s masked by his macho bravado. Also, it gives me the opportunity to be totally politically incorrect, which is always a lot of fun! It was such a strong character; I knew I could contribute. I’m actually quite wary of doing other people’s stuff. If I haven't been involved in the creating of it, I never know if I can bring anything to it. Whereas with this, we had an affinity straightaway.
You described your character Tony as being politically incorrect. How would you paint a picture of Tony for someone who hasn't yet seen the show?
He’s your man out of time. To use a relatively modern frame, he’s untouched by the metropolitan elite. There are millions of people like that in the country. A lot of people, especially of a certain age, are set in their ways. You can’t be judgemental – well too judgemental – about people like Tony, who’s trying to grasp this kernel of change that’s happening around him. At heart, he’s quite decent. He thinks women should be protected. He’s not an overt misogynist, it comes from a misguided notion of old-fashioned chivalry, which is patronising but not dangerous. There is an awkward sexuality about him, which I’m afraid most males are afflicted with. He’s challenged by Linda when she turns up. It does make him reassess. He’s a fictional character, but he represents the potential for change.
The first scene that you filmed, your character Tony sees Bridget sitting alone in the pub and tries to chat her up. Tell us about that scene?
It was just a lovely little scene and a great pay-off at the end of it. We were filming it as we were emerging from lockdown, and I remember sending Bob Mortimer a picture of the interior of the pub, because we hadn’t been in one for so long. It was really strange going in there and thinking how much a part of British cultural life a pub is. In fact, I think the last time I'd been to a pub was with Bob. Anyway, we did the scene and Bridget was very happy with it. It was a lovely scene to do. And we really, we really had fun doing it.
How did you get into the mindset of Tony to prepare for the role?
I can honestly say I’ve never walked up to a woman sitting at a pub table ever, never mind one in biker leathers reading a book, and tried to chat her up. But I know people who have and people who do. It came off the page quite quickly. I sensed on reading it that it’s something I can do.
When you got a chance to read the full scripts, what were your first impressions of Tony’s storyline and Bridget’s vision for the whole series?
To see that character slot into the whole story was great. I knew it was about the menopause and how it affects women, but also their partners and children. I like the dressing down she gets from other members of her family, including the women: ‘Behave yourself, what are you doing?’ Because if a bloke goes off on a motorbike, as has happened in the form of a midlife crisis, quite correctly we’d probably laugh. So in this case, although there's a genuine reason behind it and a biological imperative, we are also allowed to laugh at her too. Bridget is always prepared to show the effect it has on everyone. In a way, all the characters are sent to try Linda – including Tony. Everyone she meets around the forest; they present a challenge for her in some way or another.
As a fishing expert and star of your own series Gone Fishing, what did you think of the importance of eels in the town where the show is set and the Eel Festival storyline?
I loved little touches like the Eel Festival. I thought it was a genuine thing at first – there probably is something like that historically. Putting my fishing hat on, the eel run was a time of great bounty in rural communities. But eel stocks have gone off the cliff now. Where I’ve fished in the past you see these old structures which are eel traps, because eels used to come up in their millions and there would’ve been a bounty, so that would’ve been celebrated. I think she conjured up the Eel Festival, but it probably is rooted in reality. And there is something slightly phallic about eels and something almost sperm-like about elvers. Then there she is going through the menopause. Maybe I’m reading too much into it!
Which bits of the show did you most enjoy filming and what do you think is Tony's funniest scene in the show?
I enjoyed the town hall meeting. Me and Jim Howick [who plays the Verderer] had a laugh together because our characters are both outspoken at the meeting. In the town hall meeting, we’re talking about the Eel Festival, traditional old English celebrations and preserving cultures. That scene was a good way of showing: these things that are traditional and, in some senses, worth saving, how do we adapt them? If we do, do we lose the sense of where they come from? Or do we have to update them because certain things about them are offensive? Anyway, that’s not really the reason I like the scene! Do you know The Troggs Tapes? The band The Troggs, there’s a legendary recording of them trying to record a track and they cannot say a sentence without saying fucking every other fucking word. It’s very funny. That scene was a perfect opportunity to be inspired by the Troggs Tapes. For anyone who knows it, they’ll go he’s nicked that off The Troggs!
But I think my favourite scene Tony does is the first scene, where he first meets Linda in the pub. He’s so gauche but she can handle him, and they realise that there’s great potential for a friendship there.
What do you think that viewers might take away from the series as a whole
We all go through changes in life, and we all have things that we have to cope with and come to terms with, but the menopause and our understanding of it has been on the back burner. I love the way that she doesn't present it as a sort of stick to beat people with. The show presents an understanding of what the menopause is, while showing all sides. I hope it’s a success because it was great fun to do, and I just hope that Tony doesn’t reform too much or there’s going to be no fun playing him!
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Daniel Pateman is a freelance writer, producing articles across the cultural spectrum for magazines like Aesthetica, Photomonitor, The Brooklyn Rail and This is Tomorrow. He also provides text-writing services to individual curators and artists worldwide, and has had work published internationally. His favourite film genre is horror (bring on Scream 5!) and he never tires of listening to Absolute 80s on the radio.