- By Richard Haugh
- BBC News, Norfolk
In 2019, German film director Jens Meurer spent several months in Cromer on the Norfolk coast, watching people as they prepared for two seismic events – Brexit and the annual end-of-the-dock variety show.
The resulting documentary, Seaside Special, serves as a time capsule in a pre-lockdown world, when things were on the verge of change, but long-standing traditions remained on stage. .
Four years later, the film is slowly hitting theaters.
But not everyone who appears in it still lives or works in Cromer, and sadly, one of the stars, comedian Paul Eastwood, passed away before being seen.
‘He’s still making people laugh’
Corea Eastwood said her husband Paul worked on Cromer’s end of the pier program for four years, each time being away from their home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire for months.
The film shows Paul in a comparative role – warming up the audience, introducing different repertoire, then taking on different elements of the show, which is held twice a day for most of the summer. .
Corea said: “Paul is very excited to be in the film. “He loves anything that’s a little bit appropriate, a little different, because he’s a little bit different like that.
“He loves Cromer. He loves that little theater. The great thing is if it’s moving (the sea), you can hear the theater moving.”
The Covid outbreak has stripped Paul of his opportunity to appear on stage, and like so many comics, he has had to find other ways to spend time and make money during the lockdown.
“He interviewed and applied for at least 73 jobs during the lockdown to be a delivery driver, he had a double radius, he worked for Amazon – he did everything he could. to stay busy and keep some income,” says Corea.
“He’s amazing. I used to be an entertainer so I could put myself in his shoes and imagine that all of that was stripped and stopped – it was tough. But he kept going – he didn’t let that put him off.
“He regularly has online meetups with his comic book buddies that last until early in the morning, all of them howling, keeping each other going.”
On June 29, 2021, Paul was seriously injured after falling from scaffolding at his home. He died in the hospital four weeks later.
Corea described his funeral as “spectacular”, with more than 300 people coming to pay their respects.
“He’s very kind and not many people see that,” she said. “But everyone at that funeral knew he was there.”
Once the Seaside Special was edited and ready to be shown to audiences, Jens Meurer wanted Corea, their three-year-old son Harry, and Paul’s parents to be the first to see it.
“We watched it in the apartment where we live and Jens came to see it,” Corea said. “It’s lovely because it has a lot of Paul in it.
“I remember watching it with glazed eyes, but even though I know it’s adorable, when you first watch something like that with someone you’ve lost, you just focus on them. , so I didn’t pay much attention. .
“But when I watched it again at a screening in Cromer, I really realized how wonderful it is, what a lovely movie it is.
“I love that he still makes people laugh – that’s great. He’s going to absolutely love that.”
Corea says she has the movie on her hard drive, along with some additional footage Meurer gave her when she and Harry visited Paul in Cromer.
“Harry is five years old now – maybe next year I’ll be able to sit down and watch him with him and he’ll be able to take it in a little bit more, while it’s out of his control now,” she said.
“I really wish he could see the footage of Paul. Every time I watch it, I get something different, which is lovely.”
‘It matters to many people’
By the time Jens Meurer’s cameras reached Cromer, show director Dianne Cook was in her 17th year working on the late summer and Christmas shows.
“I think in the 17 years we’ve been there, we’ve built it into this contemporary variety show that keeps its traditional roots but also has 21st Century content,” she said.
The Seaside Special showcases this variety that includes magic, dramatics, songs from musical theater, hits like Bohemian Rhapsody and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, and stand-up comedy.
“In a way, it’s cheeky seaside humour, but over the years it’s become more daring but not offensive,” she said. “It has a huge following and a really warm family feel.”
Dianne admitted to being “a bit nervous” about the prospect of having cameras watching her as she reassembled the show from scratch at the start of the year, but these fears were allayed by Meurer’s apparent love of her. with theme and town.
“I think what makes the film so real is that he captures moments that the average person wouldn’t see – the moments backstage, we were rehearsing, it wasn’t always the case. goes as planned – I’ll ‘argh we’re not ready’.
“People don’t usually see that, they just see glitz and glamor, but he got warts and all.
“When you’re trying to perform, you see people when they’re tired, at their worst, when they’re cranky, but then you also see when they’re great and they’re at their best and they’re shining. bright.
“You eat with them, get tired of them, look scruffy to them, and then you put on your fun rags and it’s showtime.”
The summer performance in the film was the last for Dianne, who lives in south-west London and is working as a director and choreographer on other productions.
She said that when the Cromer program came back from the lockdown, it was a “much smaller way” so it didn’t require the same level of resources.
“A lot of people went their separate ways because of the lockdown and everything changed and then they had to do something else,” she said.
“The movie is important to a lot of people, given the timing of its release… and what happened to Paul.
“It’s wonderful to have this memory of Paul and how there is to have this memory of the show as it was in 2019.”
‘A lot of Germans find us British funny’
Radio broadcasts are woven throughout the Seaside Special and provide some context on what is happening with Brexit while the cast of the Cromer Pier Show prepares to entertain visitors to the town.
Nearly 59% of voters in North Norfolk chose to leave the EU, but the film heard about how Sophie Duniam and her sister Polly were “too anarchic” to join.
The duo, who were childhood stars of BBC’s Home Farm Twins and are now touring as the musical My Bad Sister, announced in the film that they would be taking their motorbikes across Europe to get on Brexit talk.
All that stops them is the driver’s license and the engine for the truck.
“I passed the driving test,” Sophie, 36, said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t fixed Winnebago yet, but we still have it in stock.
“We’re struggling to find the right funding and incentives to go into it, but we’re still hoping to make a follow-up series for German television, with Jens Meurer as director, with him following me. and my sister on tour.”
Sophie now lives near Ipswich, teaching dance and yoga, while her sister has moved to Wales.
Meanwhile, their parents sold their house in Cromer shortly after starring in the movie and now live in Spain.
Sophie said: “I watched the film 10 to 15 times and thoroughly enjoyed it. “Not just because it’s my family, my life and my hometown, but because it’s just a fantasy documentary and it’s great how it depicts the reality that we can all live in one place. small but with diverse political views.
“It’s not about politics, but it clearly has that theme, and it really accepts everyone’s point of view without being overly critical or biased.”
So far, the film has only been shown in a handful of UK cinemas and is often featured by Meurer and members of the cast, or Corea Eastwood.
Sophie hopes the film will become more widely known, with reports indicating the film has been a great success in meurer’s hometown.
“I think many Germans find us British quite humorous,” she said. “Diverse entertainment is the culture of our British working class and I think they’re quite enjoying that, especially those who will be watching art house films – the slightly more highly educated audience. will find it cute and quirky.
“I’ve been there so many times and know for sure they don’t have anything like it – so they’re like ‘oh, does this really happen? This is weird’.
“It’s none of their business.”