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Chickenshed enters the exciting world of film

Theatre news

LEADING independent drama producer and distributor Reel One Entertainment has announced that it will partner with UK theatre company Chickenshed to adapt the award-winning Belgian series Tytgat Chocolat (Team Chocolate) for British TV, after securing the format rights from European distribution company Wild Bunch TV.

The ground-breaking series, which premiered to record breaking ratings and critical acclaim on Belgian public broadcaster VRT (Eén) last September, tells the heart-warming story of a young man with Down syndrome who travels across Europe to be reunited with the love of his life.

Featuring a diverse cast of actors, the Flemish-language series was named best drama series at the first Diversify TV Excellence Awards during Mipcom last year and also won the Prix Europa in 2017 for best European Fiction Series.

Reel One will work closely with London based Chickenshed, a pioneering and inclusive theatre company, to develop and produce the UK version of the series. Founded in 1974, the theatre company has achieved widespread acclaim for its work with young actors of all backgrounds and abilities and for staging outstanding productions that celebrate diversity and inspire positive change.

Adam Fratto, head of series at Reel One , commented: “Right from the first episode, we were captivated by the warmth, humour and honesty of this charming story of a group of young people wanting to lead their lives on their own terms. We’re thrilled to be working with De Mensen, Wild Bunch and Chickenshed on what promises to be a unique and timely series.”

Part feel good love story, part comedy road-trip, the original series centres on Jasper Vloemans (played by Jelle Palmaerts), as he starts his first job in a family-run chocolate factory. He soon falls in love with one of his colleagues: Tina, a girl from Kosovo. But when Tina is suddenly deported to her home country, Jasper and his friends set out on a road trip to find her.

The series was born from a unique collaboration between leading Belgian production company De Mensen, the producers of such acclaimed dramas as Salamander, Hotel Beau Sejour and upcoming Netflix series Undercover, and Theater Stap, a Flanders-based theatre company that works with disabled actors. Actors from the company play many of the lead roles in the show.

Lou Stein, Chichenshed’s Artistic Director, commented: “This is a fantastic and ground-breaking partnership, and it gives Chickenshed a chance to have a real voice in how inclusion is framed in a major television project”.

Reel One plans to begin pitching UK broadcasters over the coming weeks and is currently in discussions to attach a UK writer.

The development of the series comes at a time when broadcasters are under increasing pressure to increase the representation of disabled people on-screen. According to last year’s provisional report by Project Diamond, set up by the major broadcasters to monitor diversity in the industry, people with disabilities are one of the most under-represented groups on TV, making up just 6.5% of the talent seen on screen and only 5.5% of talent behind the scenes – even though 18% of the national population have a disability.

The deal also continues the expansion of Reel One’s new series business, following the appointments last year of Cleverman exec producer Adam Fratto as SVP of TV series and former Channel 4 exec Dominic Schreiber as global drama executive. Other series in development include a sci-fi series based on the Philip K Dick novella Second Variety, and a number of primetime crime procedurals.