ITV commissions new drama ‘Leaving’

by Lisa McGarry

‘Leaving’ is a powerful relationship drama, grounded in a reality we can all recognise. Written by acclaimed screenwriter Tony Marchant (Mark of Cain, Garrow’s Law, Holding On), it’s a gripping character-driven story about the complexities of love, family and growing up.

ITV have ordered three episodes to be filmed on location in Cheshire. Filming is due to commence in February 2012 and transmission is expected later in the year on ITV1.

The drama focuses on 25 year old Aaron Hughes who lives with his parents in Warrington. He’s failed to find work since leaving university and – to cap it all – his ex-girlfriend Phoebe is about to marry his brother. Life’s not panning out the way he’d hoped.

Julie Ranmore is 45, married and a mum of two. The passion has long since lapsed in her marriage, but her work in hotel events at a 4 star country house hotel in Cheshire gives her brief moments of joy in the romance of others. Julie stands quietly at the back of weddings, silently mouthing the vows she knows by heart, enjoying the vicarious thrill of seeing other people happy.

When Julie first meets Aaron on the night of his brother’s wedding, he is drunk and miserable. Professional and with a degree of sympathy, Julie gets the night porter to take him to his room. Julie heads home to the everyday chaos of her family, unaware that this moment was the unlikely start to an unlikely relationship.

The next morning, with a stinking hangover and the accompanying fug of self-pity, Aaron cuts a pathetic figure. It takes Julie, back on shift, to delivers some home truths – he needs a reality check.

With those words ringing in Aaron’s ears, the wedding hardens his resolve to find work, leave behind his childhood bedroom, and turn things around. When a job comes up at the hotel, his mate Jonah cajoles him into applying.

Now Aaron and Julie are working together every day. Although Aaron’s tasks are menial, he soon develops an easy rapport with his colleagues and begins to enjoy himself. Despite this, Julie keeps him slightly at arm’s length – perhaps suspicious that for Aaron this is just a passing job, a gap year of sorts, before he moves onto ‘bigger and better’ things. For her, this is real – this is her life. But Aaron genuinely starts to take pride in his work, and recognise the reasons Julie finds her job so rewarding.

A bond begins to form and, one night, they share an intimate moment which takes them both by surprise. What follows will have profound implications for both Aaron and Julie as they each come to terms with their actions.

Other characters will include Jamie Ranmore, Julie’s husband, Hugh Patton, Event’s Manager at the hotel, Aaron’s parents, Jim and Vanessa Hughes, Jonah, Aaron’s best mate, Aaron’s brother Tom and his ex girlfriend who is now married to Tom, Phoebe.

Leaving has been commissioned by ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning Laura Mackie and Controller of Drama Commissioning Sally Haynes.

“We’re delighted to be working with Nicola Shindler and Red on Leaving after the success of Scott and Bailey,” said Sally. It is also a huge coup to have Tony Marchant writing an engaging and romantic piece for the channel.”

Nicola Shindler will executive produce Leaving on behalf of Red Production Company and the producer will be announced shortly.

“Leaving is an unusual love story set within the tough realities of contemporary Britain,” added Nicola.

Casting for Leaving will begin this month.