From a funny story to web screen series set in Tunbridge Wells

Rob Young

Filming on a new web television series about a costumed crime fighter has started in Tunbridge Wells.

The week after the Tunbridge Wells caped crusader’s mission was revealed, we report on Midnight Blue, written and directed by local film-maker Samuel Marlowe. The series stars local 18-year-old Matthew Turbett as a cynical teenager who pretends to be a suburban superhero after a case of mistaken identity.

It will be screened on Mr Marlowe’s website, the Mainspring Web Television Show.

Mr Marlowe said: “In 2003, news of a man dressed as a superhero operating in Tunbridge Wells hit the headlines. After a few weeks of ‘Spa-Man’ stories and some photos of a man wearing a costume, it was revealed to be a hoax.

“I remember thinking, “That’s a funny story. I expect someone will make a movie about it one day…”

But Mr Marlowe thought a web series was the ‘obvious choice’ for a series about superheroes, which have traditionally been printed in comics.

He said: “I remembered the story of ‘Spa-Man’ and liked the idea of such an extreme character in an apparently safe little English town.”

But he felt if the main character and his actions were a hoax, the series would have too bleak an ending.

He added: “I decided to start the series with a hoax. It’s only our main character Nathan who is not sucked in by stories of a masked man saving people from muggers and changing tyres.

“I liked the irony that it was the one man who doesn’t believe in superheroes who then has to become one.”

Mr Marlowe delayed his plans when a comic about an amateur superhero was released in America but when he saw his ideas were very different, he returned to work, slowed only by casting his main character. He eventually found the Man in Midnight Blue in a production of Boys at the Royal Victoria Hall last September, produced by and starring then-Skinners student Matthew Turbett.

He said: “As I was watching, I kept being drawn back to Matt, thinking, ‘That’s Nathan’.

A three-episode pilot series produced last year was warmly received, according to Mr Marlowe, who then undertook production of the first full series.

Mr Marlowe said: “It will introduce a lot of new characters and jump back to a time shortly before Nathan put on his blue overalls. We meet him as a frustrated young man without direction, who has been largely left behind by his friends. His outlook on humanity is bleak, and he himself quite an antisocial and unpleasant person. This is part of looking at the type of person who could convincingly function with a dual identity. He’s very comfortable lying and has no fear of getting into a scrap.”

Mr Marlowe would like to attract sponsorship for future series he has planned.

He said: “Matt is unbelievably dedicated and I think we both want to see this story on the screen.

“Time and money are always the things you are fighting as a no-budget producer. Having more of the second would help the first immensely. I said to Matt, ‘If we carry on at this rate, you’ll be in your mid-20s and I’ll be in my mid-30s before we finish this?’

“I’m working with a talented young cinematographer called Isaac Hargreaves, and I think we’d all like to see it step up a gear.”

As for who the Sparrow (played by Tunbridge Wells-based comedy writer and performer Scott Kingsnorth) is and how he fits into the story, Mr Marlowe only said: “Spoilers!”

Asked about the town’s caped crusader, Ring Pull Man, Mr Marlowe said: “When I started writing the series, the idea of a town like Tunbridge Wells having a superhero of any kind seemed ridiculously far-fetched – now we have three of them: The original ‘Spa Man’, the Tunbridge Wells Ninja, and now Ring Pull Man. A curious case of life imitating art, imitating life.”

Filming will take place through September, and Mr Marlowe expects the series to premiere online in the middle of the autumn.

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