Tony Ayres and Jacquelin Perske on Matchbox mini ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’
Xavier Samuel and Andrea Demetriades in 'Seven Types of Ambiguity'.
New ABC miniseries Seven Types of Ambiguity will air April 13. All six episodes will be available on iview after the first episode is broadcast.
The Matchbox Pictures' drama stars Hugo Weaving, Xavier Samuel, Alex Dimitriades, Leeanna Walsman, Andrea Demetriades, Anthony Hayes and Susie Porter.
EPs on the show, which weaves together different perspectives on a child kidnapping, are Tony Ayres and Jacquelin Perske.
Ayres first read Elliot Perlman’s novel, on which the show is based, around five years ago, just after he'd finished up on The Slap.
He was struck by the structural similarities between the two stories, while also noting the differences in the ways they had used the form.
“It was such a challenging and compelling book. I found it very rich and rewarding, frustrating and exciting,” Ayres said. “It was one of those big, ambitious projects that entices you as a producer.”
Shot in and around Melbourne, the show is described by the EP as “a relationship drama wrapped in a mystery.”
“I think the series really captures the spirit of the book, which is around questions of the unknowable; the nature of love, life in modern society, and how we deal with relationships, how we deal with each other."
Each episode follows a different person’s perspective on the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of a seven year-old boy.
However Ayres was quick to point out that the show is not a story about a missing child. He called it a “whydunnit” – focused on the truth behind what happened and the complexities of the relationships involved.
Early on, the audience discovers that the kidnapper, Simon, played by Xavier Samuel, is actually a former lover of the child’s mother (Leeanna Walsman).
At the same time, Simon’s accomplice, Angela, played by Andrea Demetriades, is revealed to be involved with the child’s father, Joe – played by Alex Dimitriades.
Seven Types of Ambiguity will also see Hugo Weaving return to the small screen, playing Simon’s psychiatrist Dr Alex Klima.
It was the first time Ayres had worked with Weaving, whom he describes as "masterful". Other cast members include Anthony Hayes and Susie Porter.
Developing Perlman’s novel into a television series was a lengthy process. After ABC TV picked the project up, Ayres enlisted Amanda Higgs as a producer.
Along with the writing team – led by Jacquelin Perske, along with Marieke Hardy and Jonathan Gavin – they grappled with how best to adapt the novel, which doesn’t always follow a linear storyline. Perlman also assisted with the creative process.
EP and lead writer Perske told IF that Perlman was a great collaborator and “brains trust”, helping to suggest what could be jettisoned and what had to stay.
“It’s always hard adapting a book or any original source," she said. "Particularly a book you really love and you respect, because at a certain point you can’t keep everything you love about it. You have to make decisions and you have to extricate the story.”
The TV version of the story has played up the thriller elements, though Perske underlined the fact that the the focus remains on the key relationships. The nature of those relationships is what drew the strong cast to the show, she said: “People seemed very keen to want to play these characters, which makes you feel very pleased."
“They’re contemporary characters – there was nothing particularly unusual about them, but they’re placed in a very unusual situation."
Three directors – Glendyn Ivin, Ana Kokkinos and Matthew Saville – each shot two episodes, with every ep focused on a different character.
Though the show depicts relationships that “look operational and functional” but unravel, Perske says Seven Types of Ambiguity is a story about love. “I know that’s quite general, but it does seem to be the connective word; love at its absolute best and also love when it is absolutely destructive and terrible.”
Seven Types of Ambiguity will premiere on Thursday April 13 at 8.30pm.
This story originally appeared in IF#171.