Dancing on the Edge (2013)

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Released 19-Jun-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-on parts 1 & 5 w/ Poliakoff, Montgomery, Goode, Johnston.
Bonus Episode-Interviewing Louis (a full extra hour of drama) (59:46)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Scenes (19:43)
Gallery-Photo-Stills Gallery (3:57)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 362:55 (Case: 364)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stephen Poliakoff

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor
Matthew Goode
Angel Coulby
Jacqueline Bisset
Anthony Head
John Goodman
Tom Hughes
Wunmi Mosaku
Joanna Vanderham
Ariyon Bakare
Jenna-Louise Coleman
Janet Montgomery
Allan Corduner
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Adrian Johnston

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Stephen Poliakoff is known for making British television dramas, usually with all-star casts. Dancing on the Edge (2013) continues this tradition as a five-part drama set in the 1930s. The place is London, the time is just after the Great Depression. A group of mostly struggling foreign black musicians, named the Louis Lester Band plays jazz in underground bars until music journalist Stanley (Matthew Goode) discovers them.

     Stanley befriends Louis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the band's English-born native leader, and convinces the upper-class Imperial Hotel to commit them to a regular gig. Stanley also convinces the band to use two female singers and they become popular after receiving the endorsement of the Prince of Wales and his brother George.

     The themes in Dancing on the Edge are consistent with the times the drama is set, with the influence of jazz in Britain tied-in with the confrontation of people's racism. It's somewhat ironic, then, that some thirty years later a little band from Liverpool made it big trying to make black music accessible to white people. Initially, the band cannot use the hotel's bars or restaurants. Later, they reside in the hotel and get to know the hotel's owner, Schlesinger (Mel Smith - in his last role prior to his death in July, 2013). However, fellow passengers on a first-class train and members of the German Embassy refuse to acknowledge the coloured musicians, as do the elderly Imperial Hotel usual customers.

     Louis is forced to flee London after the murder of the band's lead singer, Jessie (Angel Coulby). Louis is forced to confront prejudiced attitudes, even amongst people he considered friends. The motives of wealthy recluse Lady Cremone (Jacqueline Bisset), Arthur Donaldson (Anthony Head) and tycoon Walter Masterson (John Goodman) comes into question as Louis begins to doubt who he can truly trust.

     The cast is superb, with some fine acting from established stars and newcomers. Chiwetel Ejiofor is charming as Louis Lester, Angel Coulby as Jessie is beautiful and mysterious and Wunmi Mosaku as Carla is quiet and dedicated to her craft. The music, like the themes, strikes a dissonant chord from amongst its surroundings, making it memorable and distinctive, much like the impact of the band on the audience they play to.

     A short synopsis of each episode is below. The series opener and finale are about 1 and a half hours long, the other 3 episodes are 60 minutes or less in length.

Episode 1 (90:33)

     Music journalist Stanley Mitchell befriends The Louis Lester Band and helps its rise to fame from playing in a basement jazz club to the illustrious Imperial Hotel. At first, the band is treated with hostility by the hotel's elderly audience, most of whom have never heard jazz music nor seen black musicians before. However, one table of young aristocrats love their new music and invite them to play at a garden party.

Episode 2 (61:08)

     The Louis Lester Band has yet to reach the fame it so desires, and is stuck playing children's birthday parties at the Imperial Ballroom. Louis is frustrated. However, the band is introduced to wealthy recluse Lady Lavinia Cremone and she may be able to change its fortunes.

Episode 3 (60:32)

     The band and their friends are devastated by Jessie's (Angel Coulby) hospitalisation, and take turns to visit her. Louis is interviewed by police about events on the night of Jessie's attack, and he tells them that he saw Julian when he should have been on a train to Paris. The band have to be persuaded to play without Jessie for the Imperial Hotel's Christmas lunch and they are unsettled when a table of racist Germans walks out during the performance. But the mood is lifted when news arrives that Jessie has woken from her coma. For New Year's Eve, Lady Cremone holds a party on her estate. Everybody is surprised when Julian turns up, announcing he has been in France exploring a new business idea. The group goes into the village to hear the New Year announced on a loudspeaker, and there is a joyous and romantic mood. In the middle of the party, Louis confides to Sarah that he saw Julian at the hotel the night of Jessie's attack. Stanley exacts revenge on the racists by smuggling in Louis to play at a German Embassy party. The prank goes brilliantly, but the friends' joy soon turns to tears when tragedy strikes.

Episode 4 (60:42)

     The Band plays for the Freemasons dinner and Louis notices the close ties between Julian, who he believes is the killer, and a powerful elite. Everyone is shocked by events in America where an attempt has been made on the President's life. Masterson reveals his plan to build a news empire around the New Music Express Magazine. Stanley warns Louis that the police believe him to be the killer; he tries to see a lawyer, but others seem to be conspiring to hand him over to the police.

Episode 5 (90:00)

     Louis can no longer hide out at the Music Express Office so Stanley takes him to a suburban flat to escape the manhunt. He is to wait until nightfall, whilst Stanley goes to find his passport as they plan his escape out of the country. Stanley returns to the Imperial Hotel, to find that its reputation has been badly affected by the murder there. Masterson takes over the new Music Express magazine, and surprises Stanley by announcing he has offered a large reward for the capture of Louis Lester.

     The series premiered in Britain on BBC Two in February 2013. In Australia, the series was shown on the UKTV channel on the cable television service provider, Foxtel, in May, 2013.

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Transfer Quality


     Dancing on the Edge was shot digitally using the Arri Alexa camera in 2K high definition.

     The aspect ratio is 1:78:1, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions, which is the modern aspect ratio for television shows.

     This five-part series is split into 2 discs for DVD. The first disc contains three episodes. The first and last episodes are approximately 90 minutes in length. The remaining episodes are about 60 minutes each. The average bitrate fluctuates between 4.37 and 4.64 m/b per sec, which is a little below average for DVD.

     The colour timing has been de-saturated and the contrast here is low so that flesh tones are predominately white. The look of the television series is consistent with its period, set in the 1930s.

     The only video artefact present is some low level noise due to the lower compression of the video transfer.

     Optional subtitles are provided in English for the hard of hearing.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Adrian Johnston has written some upbeat swing and jazz numbers for this series. Overall, it is an uplifting score that compliments the drama perfectly.

     The main audio track for each episode is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 256 kbps.

     Dialogue is clear and synchronised.

     Despite being only a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, the main soundtrack encompasses both channels consistently, and in stereo. Ambient background effects are nicely done too.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary on parts 1 and 5 with Stephen Poliakoff (writer & director), Matthew Goode (Stanley), Janet Montgomery (Sarah) and Adrian Johnston (music & lyrics)

     The audio commentary gives insights into the background to the story, character motivations and anecdotes about cast members. There is a good rapport between the cast, which each commenting on their specific role in the drama. We also get some interesting information about the production, from hiring trains, using locations and even discussion about the herbal cigarettes used to portray the prolific smoking in each episode. Director Stephen Poliakoff tends to dominate the discussion of topics, with the other three adding further comments as they go along. A lot of the commentary is scene-specific too.

Bonus Episode - Interviewing Louis (a full extra hour of drama) (59:46)

     The bonus episode premiered two weeks after the last episode on BBC Two, in March 2013. Presented as a series of interviews undertaken by Stanley for his Music Express magazine and taking place at the peak of fame for the Louis Lester band, Louis, Jessie and Carla give an insight into their thoughts about fame as well as their personal stories. Louis and Stanley remember the First World War, in which Louis's father fought. Louis talks about what it is like to be a black musician in London, and they discuss the band's exotic attraction to the aristocracy. Stanley talks to Carla and Jessie, who open up about their upbringings and their feelings on becoming famous. And Louis describes a chilling story about a female fan, when what started as a prank phone call became something much more sinister.

Behind The Scenes (19:43)

     Interspersed among scenes from the series, Stephen Poliakoff discusses how the project came about, the history behind the story, how he cast the lead singers and how the racism and prejudice in the series is linked to the anti-Semitism of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Matthew Goode, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Janet Montgomery and Joanna Vanderham discuss their characters and the importance of the accompanying musical soundtrack. Finally, Tom Hughes and Angel Coulby add further comment about the plot and their involvement.

Gallery-Photo (3:57)

    This gallery uses stills from the episodes which use fades, pans and zooms to transition between images with a backing jazz soundtrack.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 2 United Kingdom DVD release is identical to the Region 4 Australian DVD release in technical specifications and extras.


     Dancing on the Edge is wonderfully set in upper-class Britain in the 1930s and is both entertaining and melodramatic. With its challenging themes of racism and prejudice amongst high society and royalty, the jazz soundtrack and a well-balanced cast of both experienced and newcomer American and British actors, Dancing on the Edge will have you hooked from episode one to episode five, just it did me. Do yourself a favour and check out this brilliant BBC television drama!

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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